Let them fight. That proclamation from Godzilla has finally been fully brought to bear. Godzilla vs. Kong brings together the stars of the MonsterVerse for one giant epic. Whereas Godzilla was trying to be at least a little grounded and Godzilla: King of the Monsters went for titan volume, with Kong: Skull Island stuck right in the middle, this film is trying to go for quality over quantity. To that end, it’s almost entirely about watching Godzilla and Kong duke it out. The how is much more important than the why. If you’re just here for titan destruction, there’s plenty to enjoy here. If you want anything even remotely satisfying in regard to the human characters, well, I’ve got some bad news.
Godzilla vs. Kong is basically what you’d expect out of this property. The movie is big, dumb, and all about creatures, not people. Plus, it basically acts as if parts of Godzilla: King of the Monsters didn’t happen (not necessarily a bad thing). However, it also moves so far past what’s come before, it’s as if there’s a sequel or two that we’ve missed. That sort of nonsense isn’t unexpected, but at times, it’s jarring, considering how many wild things are added here, or just stepped around. It’s a notable aspect of the film, likely a victim of a contentious editing process. The titans survived that process. Everything else? Not so much.
The plot is both needlessly convoluted and ridiculously irrelevant. We’re introduced to Kong already in a form of captivity on Skull Island, observed by Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), as well as a young girl (Kaylee Hottle) who has developed a bond and way of communicating with the beast. We also meet conspiracy theorist and podcaster Bernie Hayes (Bryan Tyree Henry), who suspects that his company is up to no good. When Godzilla, thought to be a protector, rises from the sea to attack the company’s Florida location, CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) decides that Godzilla needs to be stopped. Recruiting Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to help and utilizing his Hollow Earth theory, Lind convinces Andrews to use Kong as bait.
While this is happening, returning player Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) is convinced that something is wrong. Fearing that titans are being manipulated, she and her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) team up with Bernie to figure out what’s going on. Of course, when Godzilla and Kong are about to have a battle on the high seas, no one much cares what the people are up to. Eventually, the plan for everything becomes clear, but aside from introducing one more massive element, it’s unlikely you’ll care one bit.
The human characters are easily the worst aspect of this flick. I’d challenge you after seeing the movie to explain anyone’s motivation. It’s all about Godzilla and Kong. We learn way more about them than we do about the people. The actors and actresses populating the world all appear bored, as if they knew who the stars of the project were. At best, they’re wasted. At worst, they’re actively annoying to see pop up on the screen. Aside from those mentioned already, plus a pointless return from Kyle Chandler, the cast includes Eiza González, Lance Reddick, and more.
Director Adam Wingard throws a lot at the wall here. When it comes to the monsters, he’s doing a largely good job. Of course, the humans are a second thought to him, like everyone else, so they’re handled poorly. There, a lot of the issue resides with the screenplay. Max Borenstein and Eric Pearson are credited with writing it, though Michael Dougherty, Terry Rossio, and Zach Shields receive Story By credits as well. Somehow, the combination of five writers and a director never once came up with a scene involving the people that works. The humane element, frankly, sucks. Wingard does direct the titan fights well, and that’s basically what you want out Godzilla vs. Kong. At the same time, the editing is rather poor, with numerous sequences that seem cut to shreds. Perhaps there was a mandate to get down to two hours in length?
Visually, the fights are a nice mix of being silly yet intense. Godzilla and Kong are equally matched, so watching them duke it out is fun. Their solo moments are fine, as is when they inevitably team up, but it’s their battles that are the true selling point. It’s a far cry from the days of rubber suits, obviously. Kong gets lots more focus than Godzilla, so the effects work shines there for him. You can even argue that Kong is the only character that has any development, whatsoever. When that’s the case, you don’t have a well written final product on your hands.
Godzilla vs. Kong is a mishmash of fun titan fights and asinine human elements. How that combination sits with you will determine whether it’s a satisfying blockbuster or not. For plenty, it’ll be more than enough. For yours truly, I just needed a little bit more, or frankly, any manner of a human being to give a damn about. Without that, even with the fun battle at hand, my thumb just ever so slightly stays angled down.