I love kaiju films. From the very first King Kong (1933) to the incredible reign of Toho films, beginning with Godzilla (1954), to our new age of films such as Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005), Pacific Rim (2013), and Shin Godzilla (2016). Trying to capture Disney’s success with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all of the other movie studios have been searching their catalogues of various IPs in order to try and create their own cinematic universe—enter Legendary Studios’ MonsterVerse. So far, Legendary’s new line of kaiju films haven’t been the best as they tend to overemphasize their poorly written human characters and not focus on their giant monsters fighting (with exception to Kong: Skull Island (2017) which was a really good and well-rounded film). So, going into this film, I will admit that I was worried that Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) would focus too heavily on their humans, and while my worries did come true, the film managed to bring enough pop and monster-on-monster action to remedy this and deliver a great back-to-theaters experience.
In this new MonsterVerse entry, the legendary apex-predators Godzilla and King Kong are finally pitted against each other. For reasons unknown, Godzilla has turned against humans as he attacked an Apex Cybernetics facility and injured/killed dozens. In order to combat Godzilla, Apex’s founder, Walter Simmons (played by Demián Bichir) and son of former Monarch scientist Ishiro Serizawa, Ren Serizawa (played by Shun Oguri), seek out an energy source believed to be found in the theoretical Hollow Earth. They reached out to scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), who was an expert on the Hollow Earth theory, who in turn went to the scientist observing Kong, Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), hoping that Kong would lead them to this forgotten land. As soon as Kong is removed from Skull Island, his presence is no longer protected from Godzilla, and they must rekindle an ancient rivalry and battle in order to determine who is the true king of the monsters.
Godzilla vs Kong is an absolute blast when it comes to the monster action. Seeing Kong and Godzilla duke it out on a theater screen was an absolute visual feast. There are other fights with other monsters (don’t worry, no spoilers here) that are equally amazing, and their venues lend themselves to fantastic visual battles. There were several moments where I was like, “If Universal Studios doesn’t turn this into a ride at their parks, what are they doing?” The visual effects and synthetic camera work in these sequences made the film, especially these over-the-top battles, so much more enjoyable. On top of the battles, every scene involving Kong was an absolute joy to watch. This is especially the case with scenes involving young actress Kaylee Hottle whose character, Jia, is the only person that Kong trusts and is docile towards. There are multiple scenes in this film that will leave your jaw on the floor and cheering—both action scenes and otherwise.
Now the pitfall that it seems all of the MonsterVerse films fall into: overemphasis on human characters. Personally, I don’t think this would be as big of an issue for people if the humans were well written and acted, but as per the trend of these films, neither of those qualifiers were met. The only decent performances in this film came from Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle. Every other performance in this film was unbelievably awful. With Alexander Skarsgård and Shun Oguri, I believe it was just that their characters were very poorly written/developed in multiple areas of the script. So, while they may be acting really well in one scene, the next seems like they didn’t know what they were doing. Every single human on the “Team Godzilla” portion of the script should’ve and could’ve been completely deleted from the script. They served absolutely zero narrative purpose other than connecting this film to the last, and even if they were necessary additions, the absolutely horrific performances from Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Julian Dennison, and Kyle Chandler should have made the writers and director rethink their original plans for these characters. These sections of the film never failed to completely grind the pacing to a halt for no pay off or purpose whatsoever. In fact, after King of the Monsters and now this, I’m convinced that Millie Bobby Brown’s only good performance will be her role as Eleven in Stranger Things (2016- ), she was groan-inducing bad in this film.
This film is the back-to-theaters film we’ve been waiting for. Incredible visuals, jaw dropping action, and the original titans that dominated early cinema returning to brawl made for a triumphant theater-going experience. While it is also out on HBOmax, the quality of this film and its insane visuals will never reached in your living room. This is one of those films that must be seen on the silver screen. That said, it is nowhere near as good as it could have been. If this film just cut all of the King of the Monsters cast, and reworked a few scenes without them, this film would have been significantly better paced and would’ve been rid of the worst acted and most unnecessary filler in the film. That said, if you are going to see Godzilla vs Kong (2021) to see great kaiju matches, you will be leave the theater very entertained.
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language.