Move over Batman v. Superman and Captain America: Civil War, this is a titanic showdown eons in the making! For the first time in nearly 60 years, Godzilla and King Kong are meeting face to face on the big screen for a titan-to-titan showdown to finish a war fought by their ancestors. So does Godzilla vs. Kong live up to past 7 years of hype since the Monsterverse began? Let’s take giant look and find out!
(Note: Obviously a movie about two giant monsters fighting is definitely better seen on a big screen, especially IMAX. However, you should only go to a movie theater if you feel safe doing so and/or if it isn’t too crowded and people are following the proper social distancing protocols.)
Kong the Protagonist
Opening on Skull Island, we see Kong relaxing and doing his morning routine. He has a new best friend on the form of a small child he rescued, and she seems to be the only one who can communicate with and understand him.
We soon discover that he’s merely living inside a giant bio-dome because the storms surrounding Skull Island finally took the island over completely, and thus it was done for his safety. But he’s grown too large to stay within the habitat, and a private company called Apex has other plans for him.
For the first time in possibly ever, Kong is given a real character arc with growth. We see him communicating via sign language, and boasting human-level intelligence. He knows that Apex is essentially using him to try to get to the center of the planet, thus proving the “Hollow Earth” theory, but he goes along because he believes it’s his best chance at finding home and being with his family.
Even at the end (which we’ll get to), Kong is the one who makes active choices that drive the climax and demonstrate the fact that he’s actually learned and grown during the course of the movie. It’s legitimately impressive how a CGI character like him was able to emote using only facial expressions and body language.
As with any Kaiju movie, it can’t just be about the monsters (as much we know it really is). So we have a pretty decent cast lineup that each bring something unique to the table. But in a weird way, it does feel like we have three different movies going on, or at least three different groups of humans who rarely (if ever) interact.
We have the Godzilla group with Millie Bobbie Brown and Kyle Chandler reprising their roles of Emma and Mark Russell from King of the Monsters. They’re joined by a conspiracy theorist hilariously played by Brian Tyree Henry and Emma’s comedic relief friend Josh (Julian Dennison). They’re main goal to try and understand why Godzilla seems to be randomly attacking unprovoked.
As they try and uncover what’s going on with Godzilla, the Apex Corporation is up to some shady things that will seem very reminiscent of Pacific Rim, which is sort of fitting given the genre.
The visionary billionaire who’s actually a villain is absolutely nothing new in movies, but Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) is just mysterious enough and just motivated enough that it does genuinely seem like he believes in what he’s doing. He’s almost like a darkest timeline version of John Hammond from Jurassic Park.
And finally, we have our Kong crew that are playing the most active roles in the movie, like Kong himself. They consist of the child he’s bonded with Jia (Kaylee Hottle), and two scientists portrayed by Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgård.
They’re the ones trying to bring Kong to the center of the Earth, but have to deal with Godzilla attacking him along the way. None of the humans really get much of an arc, other than learning to understand Kong better, but it kind of works for two reasons. Firstly, the goal of this movie was primarily to get Godzilla and Kong to fight, and secondly, this is very much Kong’s movie, and he’s the protagonist.
Who Bows to Whom? (Spoilers Ahead)
Director Adam Wingard stated in an interview that he didn’t want to do the movie unless there was a clear winner, and there is. While the two titans have a minor (but damn awesome) skirmish out on the water, the real showdown is in Hong Kong, right next to the headquarters of Apex, where they have a secret of their own.
The fight itself is nothing short of amazing and really utilizes both creatures’ strength and weaknesses. Godzilla tries to drown Kong because he can’t breathe underwater, Kong manages to trick Godzilla because he’s smarter, Godzilla has his atomic breath, but it takes time to charge (which Kong exploits). They’re two very different monsters with their own unique fighting styles, and the film makes use of this brilliantly.
But of course, there had to be winner. And while Kong gives it his best, he is ultimately defeated by Godzilla and left for dead, having to be saved by some of the human characters. However, we all know that this movie was going to inevitably end with them teaming up against a common foe, who just so happens to be Mechagodzilla himself.
Its design is really cool and its creation does make sense from the perspective that Apex wants the most powerful titan to be one that’s operated and controlled by humans. We haven’t seen these three monsters fight together for a very long time, and never with visual effects like this.
However, this final fight is the last step in Kong’s character arc. Upon being revived, we see him hesitate and think about helping Godzilla (who just tried to kill him), and he makes that choice. And again, once they defeat Mechagodzilla, Kong makes the choice to drop his weapon and maintain a truce with Godzilla (even if it’s shaky at best).
Overall, it’s a fun CGI giant monster movie that is pretty much exactly what you’re expecting. It’s not as arthouse or stylized as Godzilla (2014), nor is it as human-character-driven as Kong: Skull Island, but it’s exactly what it’s trying to be.
The plot does make certain leaps and bounds to get the titans to meet each other, but the movie knows that’s what you came for. And both franchises have gone to much cheesier and campier places in the past.
What did you think of Godzilla vs. Kong? What’s your favorite movie from each of them? Let us know in the comments!
Godzilla vs. Kong is in theaters and streaming exclusively on HBO Max (until April 30, 2021)