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Godzilla vs. Kong Review: Delivers What It Promises, But Neglects a Few Things

Godzilla vs. Kong is a film that belongs to the latter legend and is a treat for everyone who's waited, but it's not without its issues.

It’s here, the monster mash of the century, Godzilla vs. Kong! The two alpha Titans are finally slugging it out on screens across the world, and thankfully for kaiju fans, people are paying hard-earned money to see the titanic showdown. It’s a good sign for the MonsterVerse as much as the spectacle itself.

The hype for the film has been epic, in a literal sense, as it should be. I was extremely excited to finally see this one, but that was without thinking I’d fall into the trap of looking at it as a reviewer instead of from the eyes of a fan. And while I liked GVK – which has a lot to appreciate about it – I can’t deny that it has its fair share of things that bugged me.

Source: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), HBO Max

Related: Godzilla vs. Kong Gets Review Bombed on IMDB by #RestoreTheSnyderVerse Supporters

Here’s The Story

Kong lives out his days on Skull Island with his little friend Jia (Kaylee Hottle) under the observation of Monarch scientist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall). Though the organization is keeping him from being detected Godzilla, they also realize they can’t rely on the protection of Skull Island’s fragile habitat habitat to keep Kong safe forever.

So, when future-tech corporation Apex and the down-and-out Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) request permission to have Kong guide an exploration party through the Hollow Earth, Andrews begrudgingly accepts.

Source: Godzilla vs Kong (2021), HBO Max

Meanwhile, Godzilla attacks various Apex facilities, including one in Florida, for unknown reasons. Paranoid podcaster and conspiracy nut Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) thinks he knows why and, after surviving the most recent attack, finds a believer in young Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), who returns from Godzilla: King of the Monsters.  he hops in a van to find the man in hiding, dragging along her high-school classmate Josh (Julian Dennison).

As a unit, they do some digging and wind up in Hong Kong, deep within the bowels of where Mechagodzilla is being constructed. The others with Monarch and Kong – surviving Godzilla’s first assault at sea – regroup to journey through the Hollow Earth. Discovering Kong’s roots there, all sides soon converge for the inevitable clash of the Titans.

Source: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), HBO Max

Related: While Discussing Godzilla Vs. Kong, Director Adam Wingard Gives Bizarre Statement About Criticism Of Monster Movies

The Human Problem

A staple of many classic Godzilla movies is having more human characters than they know what to do with. A few Kong movies have this problem too, so in that way, Godzilla vs. Kong is true to both franchises. Unfortunately, that leads to there being a glut of humans in the movie that serve no purpose. 

The film’s biggest issue in this regard is all the unnecessary callbacks. Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler return, but it makes little difference outside of providing the film with a direct connection to King of the Monsters.

Another plot thread is that of Serizawa’s son Ren (Shun Oguri) is another thread, about whom we learn next to nothing about. He could’ve made a good villain with a complex arc, but unfortunately, he is short-changed royally and underwritten. He has a laxly tiny number of lines with no exposition of his motivations, thought process, how he deals with the loss of his dad, or what their relationship was like. All he does substantively is operate Mechagodzilla; that’s it.

Source: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), HBO Max

His boss, played by Demian Bichir, gave me Wonder Woman 1984 flashbacks. Of the two films, WW84 is the bigger letdown, but Bichir’s bad guy – Walter Simmons – is like a discount version of Max Lord that works for Energyne from Rampage. He’s an evil tycoon that turns on the charm to manipulate people, only without Lord’s redeemability, into making a superweapon. 

These characters are thin, as is Julian Dennison, who could be cut out entirely and it wouldn’t matter.

Source: Godzilla vs Kong (2021), HBO Max

Related: Godzilla vs. Kong Director Adam Wingard Explains How He Avoided The ‘Problems’ of Batman vs. Superman

Yet, there was potential for crazy, old Bernie and his conspiracy-related hijinx.

Although he has the same tragic loss of someone close to him (in his case, his wife) as everyone else, he is closer to the plot than the rest and possesses a dramatic object in the form of a flask (a memento his wife gave him) he keeps in a gun holster. It was a sort of hourglass for his mindset; once the whiskey in the flask runs out, he’ll completely lose it, in his words.

I can’t wait for the YouTube videos by your Filmentos rewriting this movie, because I know what they will say. More could’ve been done to establish Bernie as the ne’er-do-well hero of the story and Ren Serizawa/Walter Simmons as his polar-opposite threats. As severely against each other as they are, they can collide the way Godzilla and Kong do in mirroring fashion: unencumbered by the added baggage of tagalongs with the world at stake.

Source: Godzilla vs. Kong, HBO Max

Creature Comforts

Bernie and the human foes represent lost opportunities, but they are nothing compared to who takes the prize for the biggest disappointment: Godzilla himself.

I’m not trolling or playing an April Fool’s prank when I say that. The top-billed Titan really is the most disappointing thing about GVK, not to mention the least likable.

He is very much the antagonist in the sense of being the real “bad guy” against the hero, Kong, until Mechagodzilla shows up, and it doesn’t amount to much. During the majority of his screentime, Gojira just appears, wrecks stuff, and leaves. Normally, that’s a good thing, since it’s what fans want and expect out of him, but he’s barely present to do or prove anything else.

Source: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), HBO Max

Related: New Images Reveal Mechagodzilla Figures and Design in Godzilla vs. Kong

The big guy was rather two-dimensional and more of a bully than an anti-hero. Whenever he and Kong meet, it’s strictly to fight, no two ways about it. We’re reminded of their “ancient rivalry”, though it’s not made as consequential or relevant to the events of the film as it should have been.

What’s more frustrating is Godzilla is painted as a Hulk Hogan or Brock Lesnar also-ran who shakes off even Kong’s best offense. Godzilla is never critically wounded in any of their fights, which can’t be said of Kong. The ax is an awesome equalizer and ought to lay in serious damage, but surprisingly, it doesn’t – at least on the no-selling Godzilla.

Source: Godzilla vs Kong (2021), HBO Max

Related: Chinese Promotional Materials For Godzilla vs. Kong Hint At Underwater Battle And More!

Sorry, that’s just dumb. I was unhappy with Godzilla over this, honestly, which shouldn’t be possible. Kong looks weaker than him and Godzilla hardly has a scratch on himself after three rounds. In wrestling terms, that’s what they call “burying your opponent.” I’ll add the phrase “lazy booking” too, since it’s also apt here. 

Fortunately for Kong, he steals the show with his expressive face and gestures, as well as interactions with the humans. Some spoilers said this already, but they were accurate when they claimed GVK is Kong’s movie through and through. Occupying a greater chunk of the story, he is the not only the most relatable and lifelike character, but also the only one with a discernible hero’s journey.

I’d say this is Kong’s best cinematic apperance since Skull Island or Peter Jackson’s 2005 magnum opus.

Source: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), HBO Max

Verdict

Godzilla vs. Kong’s glaring issues are readily appraent upon first viewing. However, the film is not without its strengths, as it has great pacing, moves well, looks gorgeous, is highly watchable (even rewatchable), and thoroughly entertaining. It just isn’t as satisfying as the last MonsterVerse installment, despite the red-hot anticipation surrounding its release these last two years.

The trailer is still amazing, though.

(By the way, there is no post-credits scene. Once the credits roll, the slugfest is officially over.)

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