This review contains spoilers for “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”
In the world of blockbusters, both the Godzilla and King Kong franchises are literally and metaphorically dominant monsters.
And in a tradition almost as old as the two franchises, such titans of cinema are almost obligated to provide fans with a crossover.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” was released on March 31 in theaters and as a limited-time streaming exclusive on HBO Max.
Just as the name implies, the titular characters, Godzilla and Kong, are pitted against each other in a fight for the crown.
Taking place after “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” the nuclear behemoth reigns supreme as Earth’s alpha Titan, the monster who is dominant over all other kaiju and monsters.
However, as cryptozoological research organization Monarch recruits a now fully-grown, adult Kong to find a hidden power source in the center of the Earth, Godzilla begins wreaking havoc and destroying cities without any discernible reason.
During his journey between destroying locales, the two Titans meet for the first time and awaken an ancient rivalry prophesied in the franchise’s previous films.
Inevitably, as most “Versus” films go, the two marquee fighters eventually put aside their differences and end the centuries-long war to defeat a greater common enemy.
There is, of course, a B Story that follows Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), daughter of a Monarch scientist, her friend Josh (Julian Dennison) and conspiracy theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) as they try to discover the source of Godzilla’s agitation.
While many may criticize the human characters as being a distraction from the Titan battles, it is quite the opposite.
Kaiju movies, Godzilla’s in particular, have always been driven by the human characters and their issues.
After all, humans are the reason behind his creation in the first place.
The monsters have always been metaphors and moral lessons about humankind’s destruction and folly.
While this theming isn’t as present in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” it is nice that Legendary and Warner Bros. did not see fit to take away from the humans simply for fanservice.
It is also interesting and enjoyable to see the film not shy away from the more absurd science-fiction and fantasy aspects that were also present in the original films.
This is first introduced when Kong aids Monarch in finding the entrance to the Hollow Earth, discovering the remnants of a long-lost civilization built by Kong’s species.
The fun absurdity builds even more when long-stay villain in the Godzilla franchise, Mechagodzilla is introduced, built from the remains of the fallen King Ghidorah and piloted via a psychic link through one of the Titan’s skulls.
While it is to be expected, the CG in the film is absolutely fantastic.
Not only do the monsters look great, but the environments as well.
I vividly remember my friends and I taking a long pause simply to admire the water physics during Godzilla and Kong’s ocean battle, with the great ape’s fur being matted down by water and hundreds of thousands of simulated water particles misting the air as he shakes it off.
Perhaps the biggest flaw of the film comes down to its villains, Apex Cybernetics, specifically father-daughter duo Walter and Maia Simmons, played by Demián Bichir and Eliza González, respectively.
Essentially, Apex CEO Walter Simmons motive revolves around wanting to dethrone Godzilla as the alpha and make humanity the true apex predator of the Earth once again.
This would be a decent motivation if Godzilla was purposely destroying cities and killing people, but as has been proven in past films, he is an ally of humanity.
One could argue that he is causing unnecessary harm in this film, but much of that is the direct fault of Apex as they build Mechagodzilla in the destroyed locations using components of the ORCA mechanism, a device that emits a signal to lure and enrage Titans.
Maia Simmons serves little purpose outside of acting as her father’s stand-in for scenes where he could have just as easily been in himself.
Her dialogue is little more than complaints about the mission that she is supposed to aid in.
She comments at one point during the ocean fight to abandon Kong, a move that would serve no purpose and destroy her only chance of reaching her objective in the first place.
Fortunately, both of these characters are rarely present in the film and get their satisfying comeuppance in the end due to their own hubris.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” even features fun references to 1962’s “King Kong vs. Godzilla” like Kong shoving the end of his axe in the King of the Monster’s throat, replicating a scene that became a meme of Kong shoving a tree in Godzilla’s mouth.
More than just a fun popcorn movie, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is a delight for fans of the original Toho films as well as the new Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. MonsterVerse.
Yes, the mainstay feature is the fights between the two giant monsters, but if you are a fan of the two Titans, it is so much more and definitely worth the watch.