Pitting these two cinematic titans is certainly nothing new as back 1962 King Kong vs. Godzilla thrilled audiences with these monstrous legends as they duked it out across Japan – well, it certainly thrilled me when I was a kid but experiences may vary – but now with Warner Bros. and their Legendary MonsterVerse we are getting a truly spectacular epic fight that doesn’t involve men in suits pounding on each other through model cities but a bold and beautiful tale that should please almost any kaiju fan.
In this fourth entry of the MonsterVerse, we learn that Godzilla has been keeping to himself after defeating King Ghidorah and becoming King of the Monsters, that is until something kicks in his aggression and he returns with a vengeance, meanwhile, Kong has been living on Skull Island in a Monarch “Kong Containment” facility, locked away from the world to keep his existence secret from Godzilla because much like in the film Highlander “There can be only one” and if Godzilla were to become aware of Kong he would feel honour bound to kill this rival apex monster. But Kong isn’t alone, in his corner, there is Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall), who fellow Monarch employees call the “Kong Whisperer” and her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last surviving native of Skull Island, but their little island paradise gets shook up with the arrival of former Monarch employee Dr. Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) whose Hollow Earth theories got him discredited in his field but it did catch the eye of Apex Cybernetics CEO Simmons (Demián Bichir) who believes there is a power source within the Hollow Earth that would allow mankind to fight off the various titans that threaten humanity without the aid of something as unpredictable as Godzilla, and with that in mind, he has recruited Lind to lead a team down into the Earth to retrieve it. There is only one catch; they’ll need Kong to find it.
To say this film really broadens the scope of the MonsterVerse is a vast understatement as not only does director Adam Wingard deliver all the spectacle one could hope to see in a clash between Kong and Godzilla but it also gets us deeper into the motivations of these two towering kaiju. In this outing, Godzilla is like an aged prizefighter who won’t let anything stand in his way, while Kong is shown to be an incredibly intelligent creature and whose bond with young Jia provides the film with some truly powerful moments, unfortunately, we also get a lot of other human interactions which are not quite as fulfilling. We have Monarch head Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) trying to figure out why Godzilla has apparently set aside his “Saviour” status to smash cities in what looks to be a mindless rage and his part in this movie is pretty pointless and exists mostly so fans can point out that Chandler previous starred with Kong in Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake. Also returning from Godzilla King of the Monsters is his daughter Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) who doesn’t believe Godzilla has gone rogue and enlists her best friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) and conspiracy podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) to uncover the truth behind Apex Cybernetics. This side quest is one part Nancy Drew to two parts Three Stooges and at times seem like a distraction from the main story, Though these three investigators do provide key pieces of information I’d consider them, overall, about useless as Madison’s dad and the people at Monarch.
What is important to know about Godzilla vs. Kong is that where the human storylines dominated the two previous Godzilla movies they are mostly footnotes to the monster on monster action in this entry and in the area of kaiju fisticuffs Adam Wingard does not disappoint. This film is simply gorgeous and the battles themselves consist of fight choreography that John Wick would be jealous of – Wick doesn’t even have atomic breath – and this movie also wonderfully handles the most obvious question fans ask “How can a giant fur-covered ape last more than a couple of seconds against an atomic fire breathing Godzilla?” In that 1962 film, Toho Studios gave Kong inexplicable lightning powers while here we see that Kong is a canny and agile fighter who does his best to see that said atomic fire never lands. What does land is the emotional weight of Kong’s story arc as we see him longing for a home when it’s more than likely that he is the last of his kind and the moments between him and the little girl are the heart of this picture, but Kong is no softy for when Godzilla gets up in business, well, let’s just say Hell hath no fury like an angry ape.
• Godzilla has changed quite a bit since the 2014 film as he’s no longer this slow lumbering monster with thick ankles.
• This movie borrows plot elements from Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla as pertaining to the use of monster DNA to create the A.I. for a giant robot.
• Kong being airlifted by helicopters is a nice nod to a similar moment in the Toho film King Kong Escapes.
• In the original King Kong vs. Godzilla the victor of the fight was treated in a somewhat ambiguous nature while in this film Adam Wingard went for a clear winner.
• Alexander Skarsgard played Tarzan in The Legend of Tarzan and in the Edgar Rice Burroughs books Tarzan did venture to the Hollow Earth in Tarzan at the Earth’s Core.
Overall, Godzilla vs. Kong delivers more monster action than the last three entries of the MonsterVerse combined and the sheer amount of citywide destruction is staggering to behold, which makes the point abundantly clear that Godzilla really isn’t “our” saviour so much as the fact that we exist on Earth at his sufferance, and when Kong enters the fray we will finally learn who is the true King of the Monsters.
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Movie Rank - 8/10
With this entry, Adam Wingard brilliantly expands the MonsterVerse while also delivering one of the most kick-ass kaiju fighting movies ever produced, one that kept a smile on my face for the entire two hours.