REVIEW: Godzilla vs Kong Is Essentially Giant Monster MMA
It’s a terrible shame Philippine cinemas still aren’t operational. Don’t get me wrong, I want people to stay safe, wear masks, keep a safe distance from one another, and generally follow best practices in this new normal, but some films need to be seen on the biggest screen possible and Godzilla vs Kong is one of them. You can stream the fourth film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse on HBO Go right now but unless you have a home IMAX (in which case, can we be friends and can I come over every day), watching the clash between cinema’s two most iconic giant monsters is something of a letdown.
Let’s face it, there’s no story here. Whatever ghost of a plot exists doesn’t matter because what you’re paying to see is Godzilla and King Kong beat the living crap out of each other. In fact, one could argue that the writers (Michael Dougherty, Terry Rossio, and Zach Shields) tried to cram too much story into a film that’s essentially giant monster MMA. We’ve come a long way from stop-motion animation and actors in rubber suits!
Millie Bobbie Brown returns as Madison Russell, powering a subplot with her best friend and a conspiracy theorist for the kid-friendly hijinks. Then there’s Alexander Skarsgsård as Dr. Nathan Lind, the film’s new hottie scientist-type brought in by the ominous-sounding Apex Cybernetics to do some research about the Hollow Earth—an entirely new concept in the MonsterVerse.
Technologically and thematically, Godzilla vs Kong feels light-years away from the preceding films and submerges its giant monster feet deep into the waters of science fiction. Antigravity ships, hollow earths, hyper-speed travel between continents using an advanced network of tunnels… nothing makes any sense. Which is saying a lot in a film about a giant ape and radioactive Barney.
This isn’t to say Godzilla vs Kong isn’t enjoyable. It actually really, really is. The fourth film in the MonsterVerse delivers on the promise that was teased from Gareth Edwards’ sublime work in Godzilla. If Edwards made the quietest monster movie in 2014, director Adam Wingarde cranks up the volume in this one. While Godzilla was operatic, Godzilla vs Kong is pure, guitar-smashing, head-banging, bat head-biting heavy metal.
Godzilla vs Kong is one hell of a ride; you just need to check your brain in at the door. You simply shouldn’t wonder why Eiza Gonzales’ character, the daughter of Demián Bichir’s Walter Simmons, CEO of the planet’s most sinister corporation, is even in the film at all. And then there’s Shun Oguri as Ren Serizawa (yes, a Serizawa, basically Godzilla royalty), who’s the son of Ken Watanabe’s Ichiro Serizawa, who sacrificed himself in an epic homage to the original film in Godzilla: King of Monsters, inexplicably allied with Apex Cybernetics and basically being a disappointment to his dead dad.
Don’t get attached to either scion because the film does absolutely nothing with them. Ren Serizawa gets a few more things to do, but is little more than a glorified Jaeger pilot wannabe. So the key to the enjoyment of Godzilla vs Monsters is the absence of critical thinking. And logic. Look, it’s two giant monsters throwing each other around with complete and absolute abandon. Godzilla: King of Monsters had a lot of destruction, too, but then it felt as though the stakes were higher. It was all about the survival of the species and preventing Armageddon.
Godzilla vs Kong is an epic scale pissing contest that’s kind of like Batman v Superman because Warner Bros apparently likes making two protagonists fight, just like Creed II (the real hero of that film is Viktor Drago). So the whole marketing behind the film is whether you’re Team Godzilla or Team Kong but the reality is that it’s actually Team HBO Go that’s the real winner because if you’re going to stream something, you might as well stream the most epic movie out there.
Fans of the franchise might feel a little letdown with the fact that Zhang Ziyi doesn’t appear in the film despite being cast. Her character in King of Monsters was an Easter egg that teased the return of Mothra but that plan was apparently scrapped. One teaser that did come to fruition was the stinger in the credits that had remnants of King Ghidorah left over to be used for nefarious purposes in a sequel.
Godzilla vs Kong is the Avengers: Endgame of the MonsterVerse with far fewer emotional beats and more giant monsters. It has fewer Easter eggs and homages than King of Monsters but it’s truly joyous to watch another linked cinematic universe pay off. All the previous MonsterVerse films have chugged along purely on fan nostalgia and the eventual promise of a titular showdown between the franchise’s biggest and baddest. Godzilla vs Kong certainly delivers on that and it's glorious.
Godzilla vs Kong is now streaming on HBO Go.