There are only two kinds of people in the world: Are you Team Lizerd or Team Monke? A clash of Titans reunited The Wages Of Cinema for an unusually animated collaboreview! Godzilla was declared King Of The Monsters in the last movie. King Kong is just Kong in the Monsterverse so he’s gotta do a regicide to earn his title.
This movie is exactly what it says on the tin, so that should decide for you if it’s your bag. It’s the sort of movie where there both is & isn’t that much to write about. None of this rumble takes place in the jungle, but let’s burrow straight into the
Pellucidar Skartaris Hollow Earth of Godzilla Vs. Kong SPOILERS!
The intro credits give a montage of the previous films, so you’ll probably be fine if you missed them. Monarch text is either redacted or flits by too quickly as the cast’s names are revealed. But I was trying to read all that supplemental material!
Studios still insist on humans as connective tissue betwixt Kaiju carnage. Everybody does good work, but there’s not much to latch onto. I’m here for the titular Titans, so I don’t hold this against the film. As was tradition on the last review, I’m not going to bother with characters’ names.
The casts of the prior Monarch-verse not returning aside from Millie Bobby Brown & Kyle Chandler means we need to get introduced to a brand new cast of people who don’t get arcs. Skull Island set a high bar for having engaging humans, but it had an advantage of one needing to focus on one monster in one locale. Unfortunately Kong didn’t bring his endearing supporting cast in geezer makeup along with him to the present. O’Shea Jackson Jr., Bradley Whitford, David Strathairn, Aisha Hinds, & double Ziyi Zhang are also noticeably absent from the modern Monarch team. Why aren’t they on deck during this Kaiju brawl for it all? The ORCA device doesn’t factor in either. Charles Dance’s baddie also sits this one out despite being in KOTM’s stinger. Lance Reddick previously appeared as an unnamed soldier in Godzilla ’98 & gets a bigger cameo here.
Rebecca Hall plays a primatologist studying Kong in a preserve on Skull Island. She’s adopted a deaf indigenous child, played by Kaylee Hottle, whose tribe was vaguely wiped out offscreen years ago. This adorable girl is Kong’s emotional support human & even made a custom action figure of him. Since Kong is the most sympathetic monster, these two get the most out of being in his endearing orbit.
There are at least two televisual vampires in the Kong Crew that could turn the big ape into a bloodsucker to give him an edge.
Eric Northman Alexander Skarsgård is viewed as a quack (at a university named for Carl Denham) for being the foremost expert on the Hollow Earth after his brother died attempting to enter it. Satanico Pandemonium Eiza González has much less to do as the daughter of Demián Bichir, whom owns Apex Cybernetics. He gives Ricardo Montalbán vibes but doesn’t get enough screentime. I didn’t realize his top techie, Shun Oguri, was playing the son of the late Dr. Serizawa until I looked at the cast list. That’s a missed opportunity to give him depth.
As the sole returning human audiences may be attached to, MBB
Nancy Drews Enonla Holmeses things up. (Chandler, who was previously in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, is a glorified cameo.) Although proactive, her plot could’ve been excised without affecting the narrative by just showing us what Apex is up to without an investigation. Her Godzilla Gang includes comic relief sideckicks Bryan Tyree Henry & Julian Dennison. While the other humans are low on personality, BTH may have too much as a quirky conspiracist.
Now let’s get to the main characters! (Are its stars washed up addicts?) Kong has had a growth spurt since we saw him as a youngling in the 70’s. The animators did a superlative job making him empathically expressive. He’s such a sad simian! Chris Chalk calls him King Kong at the beginning, upending my regicide notion. Godzilla is on the opposite emotional spectrum. It’s just opaquely vicious. So the movie plays up human stereotypes of mammals & reptiles.
Adam Wingard previously directed a couple great mid-budget thrillers, The Guest & You’re Next. Then he also did Netflix’s Death Note, which I’ve been advised to avoid despite the perfect casting of Willem Dafoe as Ryuk. He doesn’t disappoint, however, with the blockbuster devastation of Godzilla Vs. Kong. He’ll do Thundercats next! Five people had a hand in the script, which was either too many or not enough.
GVK has many parallels with BVS beyond its title’s construction. (Batman Vs. Godzilla was once planned. It would’ve starred Adam West, the version of Batman best equipped to defeat Gojira.) One combatant is a Godlike force of (super)nature matched up against an agile underdog with a knack for tools. Billionaire paranoia results in a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction. (This film has a better Lex Luthor, although still not a good as Supergirl’s.) The eponymous beings fight for contrived reasons until they join forces against a new enemy in the climax. A dead villain is Frankensteined back into a new threat.
While these similarities may fill you with dread, I assure you this is much better than Batman V. Superman. For one thing, it’s not pretentious. While both require your disbelief to be in anti-gravity to surmount numerous plot holes, Wingard isn’t laboring under the misapprehension that his movie is a serious commentary on personal ethics within modern civilization. Its focus is on showing the audience a fun time with kinetic Kaiju combat. Some action sequences are even filmed to evoke theme park rides. There’s bright colors in this one! The Hollow Earth is made of prog rock! It clocks in under two hours so it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The reason Kong & Godzilla are fighting is very convoluted. Their ancestors warred against each other within Hollow Earth. Their descendants have a genetic memory of this interspecies conflict & are compelled to reenact it. They have a Highlander sense that allows them to hone in on each other. Both are too proud to let the other win for the sake of peace & reduced collateral damages.
Funko spoiled a character’s appearance. Of course you can say that about every Funko POP! I don’t like this Mechagodzilla design. That’s an unfortunate first! It’s too rectilinear, as if it was made of chrome LEGO. It’s got moves like a Jaegger. Mechagozilla never would’ve gone rogue if it had two drift-compatible pilots. If Apex Cybernetics also made a Mechani-Kong, it could’ve been named Ape-X for branding purposes.
The conflict is inadvertently kicked off when Apex Cybernetics builds Mechagodzilla as a failsafe for Godzilla turning against humanity. It’s repurposed one of Ghidorah’s three skulls to use as an organic supercomputer to help pilot it. Godzilla’s tracking sense somehow hones in on this despite Ghidorah being a dead alien. Apex convinces some non-employee scientists to go collect an energy source from the Hollow Earth with Kong. (The bronze expedition suits have more pop than your average uniform.) Although Kong is being transported outside of Godzilla’s normal territory, it still swims out of its way to assault the big ape. There’s no explanation why Godzilla couldn’t have just attacked Kong on his home turf at any prior point. Apex already has hoverships capable of surviving the inverse gravity of entering this realm, so it’s unclear why they needed any outside help. I thought they were were going to install this subterranean mineral inside Mechagodzilla like Metallo, but somehow a robot crab just scanning it was sufficient to power the robot on Earth’s surface. Also somehow fully powering Mechagodzilla allows the Ghidorah skull to seize control over it. Do you see how much sense this doesn’t make yet?
Since Mechagodzilla is included, why not hew closer to Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla? Have green monkey aliens dispatch disguised Mechagodzilla to attack Skull Island. Their plan is to have Earth’s top Titans kill each other, leaving the planet unprotected. Kong would be motivated to get revenge on genuine Godzilla. When Mechagodzilla’s skin is torn off, the two realize they’ve been duped & team-up.
Godzilla & Kong tussling isn’t as one-side as expected. After the Monsterverse finally boats Kong off Monster Island like the classic story (The original opened up “a new medium for scaring babies via the screen.”), Gojira flips his entire ship upside-down! This eventually leads to Kong using an occupied fighter jet from an aircraft carrier as a shuriken! In Hollow Earth, Kong acquires a special axe to make Zach Snyder envious. I thought Kong was going to make it himself by breaking off one of his adversary’s dorsal plates, but he just yanks it out of the skull of ‘Zilla’s ancestor. Not only can the axe harm the atomic thunder lizard, it’s immune to its atomic breath. Their vibrant Brobdingnagian beatdown in Hong Kong learned all the right lessons from Pacific Rim.
Although Kong isn’t a pushover, he gets defeated by The Big G twice. Gojira never loses to King Kong though. So it’s not entirely unrealistic. (Meanwhile characters hurtling through absurd G-Force without prior training don’t arrive at their destinations covered in vomit.) Godzilla is only truly on the ropes when Mechagodzilla attacks. A resuscitated Kong only saves it during this monster melee because the little girl asks him to. I was expecting Godzilla to decisively die like Superman after the robot gets wrecked by the headliners, but it slinks back into the ocean to lick its wounds. Kong gets a new enclosure in Hollow Earth. The last movie showed Godzilla traveled the globe via assorted channels through Hollow Earth, so the security of his new home is in question.
Although there’s potential for romantic pairings within the Kong Crew & Godzilla Gang, the movie doesn’t force them to manifest by the final reel. While we’re spared gratuitous human romances, the film also denies shippers canon Kaiju courtship. These two don’t test drive giant size bedding bearing their likenesses because their battles aren’t foreplay. With Godzilla’s gender being unclear, their offspring could’ve been Kongzilla! Or is that just Gorgo? (Gorgo is a very efficient movie because it saves you from having to watch King Kong & Godzilla separately.) Rumor has it Mothra may be pregnant?
Sadly Playmates, not NECA, has domestic toy rights. (I was cited in a scholarly review!) There will be S.H. MonsterArts action figures at exorbitant import prices though. Nobody has announced a prop replica of the the custom Kong toy, so make your own from rocks & vines. Try your hand at banana sculptures too!
I’ve insisted my kitty looks like Kong. These folks have the same notion:. Not only is there the expected & exceptional Godzilla Vs. Owlkitty, Godzilla Vs. Kong Vs. Wayne joins in. (Wayne’s secret identity is Batman.) Gorillas & black cats are interchangeable!
Is this the finale of the the Monarch-verse? The prior installments had been leading up to this. These haven’t been quite as lucrative as WB would’ve liked & require additional negotiations with Toho. (King Kong rights are complicated too.) So I could foresee this being the last one. If so, the track record for this was better than many franchises with more installments. Although I’d like them to continue the Monsterverse with a combination of new & rebooted monsters (My Godzilla vs. Gigan shirt is a surprisingly good lens cleaner. I haven’t seen this much in years!), I’m thankful for what we were able to get. It’d just be weird to close it out without addressing Tywin Lannister buying a severed dragon head on the black market.
Godzilla Vs. Kong is a stupid movie. It may be my least favorite of the three Monsterverse films I’ve watched. (I still refuse to see 2014’s Godzilla.) Despite that, I’d still recommend seeing it on a big screen if possible. Since a Primal Rage movie still hasn’t been greenlit, this is a fine substitute. It’s a mammoth improvement over King Kong Vs. Godzilla. Sometimes art doesn’t need to be great to leave me viscerally satisfied.