Movie Review: Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

Mothra! Why did you say that name?
–Internet meme that proves 100% accurate, despite the absence of the giant Lepidoptera

The big ape dukes it out with the lizard king, and humanity gets caught in the middle.

Title: Godzilla vs Kong

Cast and Crew

Director: Adam Wingard
Writers: Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Eric Pearson, and Max Borenstein

Alexander Skarsgård as Earnest Guy Who Wins Us Over Nathan Lind
Millie Bobby Brown as Clever Kid Madison Russell
Rebecca Hall as Sympathetic Scientist Ilene Andrews
Brian Tyree Henry as Comic Relief Conspiracy Theorist Who’s Actually Right Bernie Hayes
Demián Bichir as Evil Corporate Bad Guy Walter Simmons
Shun Oguri as Bad Guy With Some Regrets Ren Serizawa
Eiza González as Arrogant Villainess Maia Simmons
Julian Dennison as Comical Sidekick Josh Valentine
Kaylee Hottle as Girl with whom Kong shares a bond Jia
Lance Reddick as Key Figure with Minimal Screen Time Guillermin
Kyle Chandler as Scientist from Previous MovieMark Russell
Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Officer Overshadowed by the LeadsAdmiral Wilcox
Ronny Chieng as Jay Wayne
John Pirruccello as Horace
Chris Chalk as Ben
Benjamin Rigby as Sonar Operator
Nick Turello, Conlan Casal, Brad McMurray as Useless Red Shirts Apex Cybernetics Guards
Daniel Nelson as Hayworth
Priscilla Doueihy as Monarch Mission Tech
Kei Kudo as HEAV Pilot
Bradd Buckley as HEAV Pilot

Premise

An evil corporation monkeys with Things Humans Should Leave Alone and brings King Kong and Godzilla into conflict. In a twist which fans of TV wrestling and superheroes will see coming from the start, the two adversaries will join forces when they realize they face a more dangerous foe who threatens the world.

Meanwhile, several human characters scramble around doing various things that service the plot.

High Points

This film features more stunning visual effects than any daikaiju film in history, from the expressive, relatable Kong to the visually stunning inner world. The fight scenes look great and, if you focus on those and don’t really worry about anything else, you’ll probably have a fun time.

We also have a few allusions to the lower-budget effects of the kaiju classics. The non-pterodactyl flying creatures from the inner world look costume-like costumes, in the midst of the destructive battle in Hong Kong, we get a momentary but clear glimpse of a junk that looks very like the sort of model one sees in the films of yore.

I admit to feeling a little disappointed that, in an Easter Egg heavy film with a lot of impressive effects and a number of special guest monsters, that the inner world did not feature any Meganulons (the giant insects that first appeared in Rodan (1956), and have turned up in a couple other Toho monster movies.

Low Points

True, this film piles on the ludicrous pseudo-science and absurdities, what with creatures several storeys high, the hollow earth, inverted gravity, and a credible online conspiracist. Those things, however, aren’t low points. Once you’ve decided to accept Kong and ‘Zilla, the rest just slides into place. No, the low parts occur when the film fails within its own rules. Godzilla forgets about his fiery radioactive breath at the most inopportune times, using it only on those occasions when the movie finds a way for it to be temporarily ineffective. Otherwise, we would have Godzilla vs. Braised Gorilla. Meanwhile, our heroes saunter into and traipse around multi-trillion-dollar secret facilities because these places have absolutely no effective security.

I know we don’t expect a lot of character development in this film, but some might have helped, particularly as a few of the relationships showed potential. Even among the big beasts, a critical turning point in the relationship occurs with too little developed justification or motivation, recalling more than a little a similar moment in Batman v. Superman.

Even the frequently silly Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) understood that, if you’re going to humanize giant monsters, you have to give them relatable motivations.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 The addition of the hollow earth and the specific use of certain historic Godzilla villains and a central Kong trope bring some originality into a comparatively predictable remake of a famous kaiju film.

Effects: 6/6 This film presents probably the best visual design and effects of any daikaiju film to date, and if you’re not watching Godzilla vs Kong for that, why are you seeing it at all?

Production: 6/6 Like the Marvel movies, the budget for this one could float several indie studios for a decade.

Acting: 4/6 The acting varies quite a bit, with a few of the minor characters going through the motions because they haven’t been given enough to do. Millie Bobby Brown and the Comic Relief Squad do quite well with their parts, silly and overly exposition-filled though they are, while young Kaylee Hottle outshines many of her adult co-stars, playing a role that effectively desexualizes the Kong and Girl trope.

The motion capture and expressiveness used for Kong works very well.

A little bit of quiet time with any of the relationships would have done wonders for the movie.

Story: 4/6 The story sets the film’s tone with a rather goofy opening that turns slightly dark. It holds together, but the current series follows the classic daikaiju pattern: make the first film somewhat scary and serious, and then proceed into popcorn entertainment with outrageous plots, monster battles, and splashes of humour.

Emotional Response: 4/6 The film’s excesses start to overwhelm it in the final third. They have the right idea here. They should dial down some of the spectacle so we can engage the characters just a little more.

I refrained from deducting one point for the use of that Hollies song at the finale. Adult viewers should consider bringing some wine, because the conclusion certainly supplies the cheese.

Overall: 5/6 This film lacks the intensity and horror of the best kaiju movies, and it doesn’t sustain itself as well as Skull Island. That said, you know what you’re getting into when you decide to watch Kong vs Godzilla, and it’s pretty much this movie.

In total, Godzilla vs Kong receives 30/42

2 replies on “Movie Review: Godzilla vs Kong (2021)”

  1. Honest Trailers said it was “Bad sober, good with a buzz,” which just coincidentally ended up being how I watching it. That said, my 8 year old has rewatched it a few times already. (The “Pitch Meeting” also had a lot of good points, too.)

  2. Brian says:

    I’m not usually a consumer of kaiju movies (please, put the rotten fruit down). That said, Pacific Rim was one of my favorite movies and I thoroughly enjoyed Skull Island and King of Monsters.

    I’ll definitely watch this one, but maybe when it rolls out on DVD at my friendly neighborhood library.

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