Godzilla vs Kong – Review

It’s not often we get a midweek blockbuster release but today is that day and it was a big one. Godzilla vs. Kong released in theaters and on HBO Max. 

The fourth entry in the Monsterverse clocked in at an hour and 53 minutes, making this epic battle between cinema’s greatest titans the shortest of the films. It wasn’t short on what was happening though. Florida, Antarctica, Hollow Earth and Hong Kong; the action couldn’t be contained to one site this time.

So how did this monster mash fare?

Across the sea

The film opens with Kong chilling on Skull Island with the Bobby Vinton tune “Over the Mountain, Across the Sea” playing. Kong goes through his morning routine, scratching his butt and everything. All isn’t as it appears though as it is revealed Monarch constructed a containment site around Kong.

Our introduction to Godzilla isn’t as tranquil. Bernie Hayes (Bryan Henry Tyree), a security guard with Apex Cybernetics, has embedded himself into the corporation to expose its secrets online. A bit of a conspiracy theorist, Bernie is convinced there is some shady stuff going on and before long he is proven right. Godzilla attacks Apex virtually out of nowhere which gives Bernie the opportunity to see something he shouldn’t, and possibly sees him back.

The Godzilla attack, which is completely out of character from what we’ve seen in the last two movies, causes the powers that be to come up with the idea of bringing Kong out of containment. It is believed if Kong comes out Godzilla will find him and they will inevitably battle for supremacy.

People are crap

Let’s get this one out of the way early. The human characters.

There are some talented cast members in this film. The only returning names are Millie Bobby Brown (Madison Russell) and Kyle Chandler (Mark Russell) from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Chandler’s role is minimal and essentially pointless. 

Brown plays a more substantial role than she did in the last film. Her character is an avid listener to Bernie’s conspiracy theory podcast. She calls upon her friend Josh (Julian Dennison from Deadpool 2) to track Bernie down and break into Apex. The banter, particularly from Josh and Bernie, is one of the few highlights from human characters.

Kaylee Hottle as Jia is the emotional anchor to the film. She is the last member of the Iwis which were wiped out from a storm on Skull Island. Kong saved her life and they’ve shared a bond since. Her interactions with Kong are truly sweet and demonstrate he is more than a giant fighting machine. Jia is also the only one who can communicate with Kong. She is deaf and speaks to Kong through sign language. Her caretaker, Rebecca Hall’s Ilene Andrews, initially advocates for keeping Kong on Skull Island but ends up being convinced he must fight.

No Kong movie would be complete without a share of exploitative, power hungry, just crap people. Kong always seems to attract the worst of mankind. The film’s villain Walter Simmons, played by Demián Bichir, is the head of Apex. He enlists former Monarch scientist Nathan Lind, played by Alexander Skarsgard, to navigate a futuristic antigravity craft into the Hollow Earth to find the power source of the Titans. This Simmons guy is as textbook a villain as you will find. From the jacket that looks lined with velour to a glass of scotch in his hand. He even has his goons bring Bernie, Madison and Josh to him so he can discuss his evil plan. What a sleazeball.

His plan is pretty narcissistic too. He wishes to replace Godzilla as the world’s apex species. Needless to say he thinks pretty highly of himself.

Seriously, people are trash.

Hollow Earth

The most visually interesting setting we get to see maybe in any of the Monsterverse movies so far is the Hollow Earth. It’s basically a secret ecosystem at the earth’s core that resembles something prehistoric. 

As Kong traverses the Hollow Earth we see all kinds of cool things like statues which resemble him, possibly ancestors. There are tons of creatures. Kong has a short fight with a pair of serpent-like monsters with big dragon wings. It was a decent but short battle with a violent and slimy end. There’s a brief glimpse of a creature that looks a little like Anguirus. It probably wasn’t and it doesn’t seem any of the Hollow Earth creatures directly relate to established Kaiju. All the more reason for a second watch!

At the center of it all there is a temple. This is where Kong gets his ax we see in the trailer. There is quite a bit going on here including more Kong statues, a throne and a floor pattern that looks like Godzilla. We see the Godzilla pattern when Kong places the axe in a certain spot and it draws energy from the earth.

‘Kong bows to no one’

As you can tell, Kong gets quite a bit more screen time than Godzilla. Positioned as the protagonist we follow his journey most of the way while Godzilla hunts him.

The first encounter between the two takes place on an aircraft carrier. Kong is being transported to Antarctica so he can go into the Hollow Earth. He’s chained to the ship when Godzilla attacks.

Godzilla does all sorts of damage here. He wipes out most of the fleet of ships and jets, flips Kong’s ship while he’s still chained up and shoots atomic breath through another ship. It’s really not a fair fight with Kong being in the middle of the ocean. 

It was suspenseful even knowing this isn’t where their final battle will take place. I couldn’t help but feel for Kong who could barely defend himself.

When Kong is in the temple in Hollow Earth things get really nutty. Godzilla seeks out another Apex site in Hong Kong. He’s drawn to something Apex is doing. While he’s toppling the city he stops and loads up another shot of atomic breath. This time he doesn’t shoot it to the sky though. Instead he fires it straight into the ground and TO THE CENTER OF THE GODDAMN EARTH! Holy shit! It’s ridiculous and ridiculously convenient since it gives Kong an expressway from the temple to Hong Kong.

Round 2

The second battle is on fair ground and we finally get the fight we’ve been waiting for.

Kong brings his ax to the fight and uses it in a couple unique ways while Godzilla unleashes his whole array of moves. It’s brutal, back and forth and exciting.

This battle succeeds where past movies have failed in one key area: it doesn’t have a lot of cutaways to what the people are doing. That does change when the third phase of the fight happens though.

If you’ve seen the trailers and marketing for the film you already know how stunning the fight looks. The colorful lights of Hong Kong are just an awesome backdrop for these two behemoths. Kong is still wearing his wounds from their earlier encounter and Godzilla looks just as awesome as he did in King of the Monsters. 

The question we’ve all debated over for the weeks leading up to this movie is answered in this fight. It goes a full three rounds and in the end one Titan is left standing.

The big surprise

SPOILER ALERT

Perhaps the film’s worst kept secret is the inclusion of a third Titan for the final act. That Titan of course is Mechagodzilla.

The existence of Mechagodzilla is revealed to be the reason Godzilla was attacking the Apex facility at the start of the movie. He was teased at the end of King of the Monsters when Alan Jonah, played by Charles Dance, acquires the severed head of King Ghidorah. Strangely enough Dance doesn’t appear in this movie. 

It turns out Apex is using the Ghidorah’s telepathic abilities as a means to control Mechagodzilla. The pilot of Mechagodzilla is Ren Serizawa, played by Shen Oguri. The Serizawa name is a callback to Ken Watanabe’s character from the last two Godzilla movies but they never spell out a clear relationship between the two characters.

I did enjoy Josh pulling a Cisco Ramon and correcting Bernie on the name. “No, that’s Mechagodzilla.”

Moments after being activated at full strength Mechagodzilla becomes sentient. Maybe Ghidorah is calling the shots?

Mechagodzilla is decked out with all sorts of combat weapons. He has thrusters to give his attacks a little more of a punch. He shoots energy beams and launches missiles. The dude has it all.

As strong as Ghidorah looked in his/their battle with Godzilla, Mechagodzilla looks even stronger. Godzilla is basically no match for this super Kaiju. I smell a team up!

Final thoughts

Godzilla vs. Kong delivered what it promised, a battle between the two film legends. It felt more like an appetizer than a meal though. I couldn’t help but wish for more. Maybe this speaks to the fight being well done or it held back from truly giving us what we want. My initial feeling is it is the latter.

As a fan of how Godzilla and Kong have been depicted in the Monsterverse I felt Kong was done justice in the movie. He was powerful and imposing while giving me the feels. Godzilla was powerful too but he didn’t get nearly enough time on camera. 

The pay off of finally seeing Hollow Earth was a little convoluted but looked great. It might have posed more questions than answers about the origins of Kaiju. Less time definitely could have been spent explaining the physics of traveling to the core of the earth. 

The downfall of the movie is clearly the people. The casting was perfectly fine but let’s face it, the budget for these movies is better spent on big monster fights and not A-list stars. Jia was the only character I pulled for. I mean, how could you not?

The one effective thing people contributed to this movie was pissing me off with how they exploited Kong. That’s a good thing. Better than feeling nothing at all. But I have a soft spot for the big ape. Just leave the guy alone.

The Mechagodzilla reveal was done in pieces before revealing the monster in his full glory. The design was fine but I wasn’t as impressed as I was with Godzilla and Kong. Another Titan villain was needed to bring Kong and Godzilla to a truce and it needed to be a powerful one. But I still would’ve liked a separate movie for Mechagodzilla’s debut.

Overall score 2/5

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About the Author
Joe is a contributing writer for Back Lot 605. He has had an obsessive relationship with movies from a young age. His first big-screen love was the original Ghostbusters, which he watched on repeat while playing with the action figures and proton pack. He often found himself watching movies this way. He even watched the Rob Schneider mega…flop Surf Ninjas for nearly an entire summer. Joe graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication in 2017. He currently writes for The N’West Iowa REVIEW, based in Sheldon, IA. During his free time, Joe enjoys playing music, playing video games, reading and watching sports. Some of Joe’s favorite films are Monster Squad, Batman, The Professional, Predator and The Empire Strikes Back.

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