"Finally." When a friend texted me after I told them that I'd just seen Godzilla vs. Kong, they asked me for a one-word review of the film, to assure that nothing could be spoiled. "Finally" was the first thing that came to mind. It was the only word I could think of for a time. I also want to be clear: I don't mean "finally, the first good movie in the MonsterVerse." 2014's Godzilla is absolutely stellar and Kong: Skull Island is a ton of fun. Godzilla vs. Kong isn't the first film in the franchise I'd consider "good," but it is the one to finally deliver on the action and mayhem that fans have been hoping to see from the very beginning, and it's the first of the series to offer something for every mega-monster lover.
Godzilla brought sincerity, stakes, and some genuine emotion to the MonsterVerse. Kong: Skull Island brought an endless barrage of style and pure, unadulterated fun. Godzilla: King of the Monsters, despite its many flaws, delivered the grand spectacle that fans had long hoped to see. Godzilla vs. Kong takes all those things and puts them into a blender. It's a battle of epic proportions, and one that you'll want to see on the biggest screen possible (so long as it's safe to do so). The word "spectacle" keeps coming to mind.
Fans are obviously coming to see the two giant titans fight on-screen, and there is more than enough of that to satisfy everyone who sits down to watch. But there's also a human story going on in the movie as well. Yes, it can be vanilla at times, but it's light-years ahead of the tale of its predecessor. And, as opposed to every character in the film being absolutely paper-thin, about half of them are folks you enjoy spending real time with. (The other half are, unfortunately, paper-thin creations that you will forget as soon as a monster enters the frame.)
There are a couple of different storylines in Godzilla vs. Kong, with the "main" tale following Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), a scientist who has been working with King Kong for years, and her adopted daughter Jia (the excellent Kaylee Hottle), a deaf girl whose family was killed on Skull Island. Jia can communicate with Kong and becomes his connection to the humans, as they head on an expedition to Hollow Earth, led by Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard). The whole mission is funded by a mad billionaire (Demian Bichir), who hopes to kill all of the titans and become the foremost power on planet earth.
On the other side of the world, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) teams up with her best friend (Julian Dennison) and a monster "truther" named Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) to uncover the secrets of Monarch and Apex Cybernentics. Their journey sees them breaking into the Apex facilities, taking a high-speed transport around the planet, and crossing paths with a horrifying, titan-killing machine that most Godzilla fans have been expecting for some time.
The relationship between Ilene and Jia represent the most genuine and thoughtful human interactions we've seen in the series since Godzilla. And the trio of Brown, Dennison, and Henry is absolutely hilarious on-screen together, providing a pitch-perfect sense of humor that this franchise has desperately needed. Pretty much every other character outside of those five feel largely unimportant and lifeless, but they are enough to create a much better balance between human and monster, a balance that was sorely missing the last two times out.
This time around, some of the human stories do matter and are a bit compelling at times. Never do they get in the way of the battles between the two iconic Titans, which is exactly how it should be. The people are coming to see Godzilla and Kong beat the ever-loving snot out of each other. Director Adam Wingard absolutely delivers on that front.
These titans are gorgeous, and watching them go blow-for-blow while a city crumbles around them is a strangely beautiful sight to see, especially on the big screen. There is no end to the sheer size of this movie. It's massive. And the colors pop in ways that King of the Monsters could only dream of. I know I called it a spectacle earlier, and I hate to reuse descriptors like that, but it's really the best word for this movie. Godzilla vs. Kong is a pure spectacle, plain and simple.
One thing that really takes the fight to another level is the actual motion-capture work of Kong himself. His movements, expressions, and mannerisms all emulate that of a world-champion fighter in the ring. The way he moves, the way he throws a punch, the way he takes a breath and tries to recover for another round. He feels so utterly human. It's a spellbinding achievement in visual effects, and I hope it gets showered with technical awards when the time comes next year. The effects team behind this film deserves every possible accolade.
Godzilla vs. Kong is the monster movie we've all been waiting for. Is it a perfect film? Absolutely not. But it's the most fun you'll have with a movie this year. If it's safe to attend a movie theater where you are, or you've been vaccinated and can't wait to get back out there, there's nothing quite like seeing Godzilla vs. Kong on the big screen. The word "stunning" only begins to cover it.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Godzilla vs. Kong opens in theaters and on HBO Max on March 31st.