Well, I’m back! While I don’t know how long my prolonged hiatus will be, I figured what better way to temporarily break this hiatus than by reviewing probably my most hyped movie for the past several years! Hot off the heels of Godzilla King of the Monsters, the Monsterverse universe has been graced with another instalment, the titanic clash of the ages, Godzilla vs Kong. I had plans to release a review of the 60s version of the movie, but irl stuff prevented me and I figured rather than force out that review, I’d wait for the real deal to release in the UK and review that. So without further a do, let’s dive into this kaiju clash to see if its the monster mash we all dreamed of, or is more of a sloppy pile of kaiju potatoes…weird analogy I know but it wouldn’t be an Average Joe review without a stupid analogy.
This movies story is the kind of story that western kaiju fans have been clambering for for years. After Godzilla (2014) gave us a more human driven narrative with Godzilla placed firmly in the dimly lit background, and King of the Monsters gave us a subpar human story with very little weight but forced involvement, Godzilla vs Kong gives us what I feel is the perfect balance of human to kaiju ratio. What I mean by this is the humans are firmly placed in the background this time, with much of the stories focus on the monsters and their fated clash. Much like Thanos in Infinity War, GvK places the magnificent monkey Kong at the forefront. This feels very much like Kongs movie, with much of the movies plot focused on Kong and his journey to realise his heritage and finding his new home. The human side of the movie is split into two groups, one side is tracking Kong and following him on his journey, while the other side follows the oddly enraged Godzilla on his vendetta to slaughter all who stand in his way.
Speaking of Godzilla, this movie gives me what I’ve been wanting since 2014, an evil Monsterverse Godzilla. Previously Godzilla was either neutral, or depicted as a saviour type of monster. But this time, Godzilla is destructive to the max and is out for destruction, stopping at nothing to maintain his place as the alpha lifeform. There are moments where Godzilla is legitimately menacing and his presence as this malevolent reaper of chaos and destruction is done very well, but we’ll go more into detail about Godzilla later, for now let me give my overall thoughts on the plot itself.
This story feels like it’s ripped straight from the 90s Heisei Godzilla films, the plot if lofty and it plays it pretty loose and fast with logic. The human part of the story serves mainly as a platform to send the audience to the next city destroying set piece. The story is very simple, Kong and Godzilla’s paths cross in a titanic battle of the ages, and meanwhile an insidious plot is being hatched to destroy both kaiju, leaving the humans to do their part and defend the world before it all falls to ruin. The story is very basic, stripped down to its bare essentials, and serves more as a way for us to observe the kaiju carnage, rather than tell a story. I can’t really say the plot is bad since compelling storytelling isn’t really at the forefront of kaiju media. The story is serviceable, and absolutely fulfils on its purpose, delivering us the fight of the century and doing so in a satisfying manner. Speaking of the fight, lets discuss the fighters and their onlookers.
As said before, this movie is Kong’s movie. He feels like the main character, and has a surprising amount of development for a kaiju. His intelligence opens the avenue for some quite human interactions, and the reveal that he has learnt some sign language and has a desire to find ‘home’ makes for an oddly compelling and very heartfelt arc. This film seems to act like the turning point for Kong as a character, and this film for me is what makes him ‘King Kong’. When a movie makes you care this much for a huge CGI Gorilla, I’d say that’s a job well done.
This movie took Kong and made him a more pivotal character than Skull Island, where he’s more of a plot device who’s character is barely even touched upon, but here he’s given time to flourish and its genuinely interesting to watch him find his heritage and take his place among his ancestors as a fearsome warrior who can rival the King of the Monsters, and you find yourself routing for him throughout the film.
Whoa…they did not need to make Godzilla this frightening, but they did, and I couldn’t be happier. Finally seeing this Godzilla acting with malevolence and posing a true threat to humanity is great to finally see, and his role as the antagonist of the movies first act is a great new angle for the character. Godzilla is way more animated in his movements in this movie, and he acts far more like a ravenous predator, shredding his way through all who oppose him and stopping at nothing until Kong and all who stand to oppose the king are but piles of rubble beneath his feet. However, he doesn’t stay a villain for the whole film, but before his heel turn, we get some genuinely unsettling brutality from the Big G, not only from his absolute deconstruction of the humans, but his harrowing onslaught against Kong.
Their fight in Hong Kong is a brilliant display of brutality, with Godzilla especially showcasing some horrifying violence, literally tearing skin from bone as he lays into Kong. I never expected to find the Monsterverse Godzilla ‘scary’, maybe imposing and certainly powerful, but this movie makes him downright threatening and this new ferocity makes him genuinely scary and this new side of Godzilla is a total treat.
Before I continue I do want to mention MAJOR SPOILERS ahead, as I’m going to be talking about a character who was kept hidden in trailers and is a big plot twist reveal in the movie. Ok, ready? Good, now lets continue on to the true villain of this movie.
Merciful lord I am so glad I avoided spoilers on this guy before the movie. Mechagodzilla’s reveal was definitely unexpected and it felt so good to finally see a modern interpretation of the bionic monster. Design wise I’d say it’s a great look, having that Legendary Godzilla style to it while having a look that feels oddly alien and unique. I was initially on the fence about MechaG being controlled by a human, since I personally don’t like the idea of an evil human going toe to toe with Godzilla, but the twist of the AI going rogue/being possessed by the surviving head of Ghidorah was a good choice as well as a neat call-back to Kiryu from Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. While his inclusion does clutter the movie a little, and ultimately does take away the prospect of an actual victor in this movie since you just know the Big G and Kong will join forces, his inclusion was a very pleasant surprise. I especially like how his eventual defeat comes at the hands of Kong since it’s a great moment for the big ape and allows him to ultimately take his place as this heroes story. That said I can’t wait for Mechanikong to come swinging in a future instalment, the truly best mechanical kaiju.
I’m going to make this brief because…frankly, I can’t remember any of the humans from this movie and I’m clearly not meant to. With the exception of Milly Bobby Brown, who gets a pass due to being in the previous film, every other human in this movie is forgettable. I will say I enjoyed Milly’s side of the human cast more as she has great chemistry with Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) and Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) and the trio made for a humorous and enjoyable stand in for the audience. The other human characters however, Kong’s guardians/followers Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) and the mute child Jia (Kaylee Hottle) feel very far removed from the overall plot, simply following the monsters wherever they go and not really contributing to the major plot. I do like Jia and her connection to Kong, But Ilene and Nathan lack that special connection/involvement that Jia has and they just come off as unnecessary. The remaining characters of interest are the villains, I say interest however in the weakest possible sense. The primary human threat of Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) is your typical ‘evil CEO who wants to kill Godzilla’ and his daughter Maia Simmons (Eiza González) is just an insufferable lackey who you could tell right from the word ‘go’ would get her comeuppance at the hands of the kaiju. There’s also the son of Serizawa, Ren (Shun Oguri) but he’s so far removed from the plot he can literally be described as ‘showing up to die’.
So overall, a pretty mixed bag of humans, serviceable for the plot, and not too in your face to distract you from the monsters, they did their job and that’s fine by me.
What can I really say about this movie visually? It’s a CGI spectacle that boasts fantastic creature designs, really well made environments, and some fantastic Kaiju combat. Let’s take this piece by piece shall we?
Godzilla’s design is still great, the only thing they really changed about it was how fierce and mean he looks and it works well. This is a design that has always had a very fearsome look, but now it’s being taken full advantage of and makes for a very menacing look for the King of Monsters. Kong’s design is more or less unchanged, though he is much bigger and boasts a little bit of beard action. I like his expressive nature and how he has really human like expressions without it looking too uncanny. As said before, Mechagodzilla’s design is great and his move set and huge array of attacks is a total treat to watch, he really is the highlight of this film visually.
This film finally takes us to the Hollow Earth, and it is straight out of a fantasy film and I LOVE IT! The various fauna and flora around, the weird gravity effects, spectacular biomes and the Kong throne room, it really is all just one magnificent setting. I really wish we got to see more of this location, as a fight between Godzilla and Kong in this space would have been fantastic, the two would be kings fighting in the true kingdom of monsters. The earth environments are also good, the final conflict location of Hong Kong was a nice area that allowed for some inventive combat and the bright colours gave it a very urban feel.
This is it folks, this is the kind of Kaiju combat we’ve been missing. Firstly, kudos to the film for giving us some actually well lit fights, and not shrouded in either an impenetrable darkness or showered with rain that obstructs the view. Even Kong vs Godzilla round 2 is well lit among the illuminated streets of Hong Kong, plus seeing the Mechagodzilla fight in the day allowed us to soak up his spectacular visuals even more so bonus points for that. The choreography in this movie was also stand out, the sheer impact of these kaiju’s strikes rocks you to the core and there’s some moments that leave you shivering at the brutality. Godzilla’s deconstruction of Kong in their final clash was unsettling, and the fight itself had some wonderful range of movement and dynamic shots that truly elevated this fight above other kaiju battles in recent years. Should the Monsterverse continue, I hope more kaiju battles take inspiration from these fights, as they are the missing piece that these films have been missing, and I can safely declare there wasn’t a bad fight in this kaiju movie.
This story is middling, but it would be wrong to say its downright bad. It’s a plot that doesn’t try to be anything special, and gives us all what we want, a big kaiju clash that leaves the audience wanting more. It’s a plot that can be described as ‘complete fluff’, but its fluff that wraps warmly around the badass core of the movie.
Characters (humans): 2/5
What can I say, the humans aren’t made to be interesting in this movie. I can’t lie and say they’re secretly great as many of them as as shallow as they come. While as I said before, I like Milly and her crew, as a whole the humans in this movie do very little to elevate the movie past what it truly is, a ‘MONSTER’ movie.
Characters (Monsters): 4/5
The monsters are surprisingly character driven. Kong is enjoyably human and has a really investing story, while Godzilla serves as a surprisingly scary antagonist until the real threat makes an appearance. They both have personal arcs and stories that make for interesting storytelling, Kong’s ascension to King Kong as well as Godzilla’s relentless onslaught is a frightening series of events.
There isn’t really much to say in this regard, the CGI was amazing in this movie, the scenery and setpieces were well made, the combat was impactful and the movie generally had that sleek and polished feel that made for an ultimately very enjoyable visual spectacle.
What can I say? It’s a movie called Godzilla vs Kong, and given that its by far one of the most titanic clashes we’ve had on screen, I feel like anything less than a 5/5 would be a disservice. You should all know I love my kaiju clash films, it’s like this movie was tailormade to get a 5/5 in this section.
Final Grade: 4/5
This is clearly a biased grade, realistically this film is more of a 3/5, but I just can’t bring myself to give it that. I had zero expectations for this movie, I just went in with the hope that it would deliver on what it promised, a big monkey smacking a big lizard. It absolutely delivers on this and provides just enough extra surprises and moments that elevates it to a truly great movie for kaiju fans, and I hope this spells the beginning of a new age for kaiju filmmaking.
With that, another review is done. This was a movie I absolutely planned to make a return to review when it came out. Thank you everyone for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. I hope to one day come back to a more consistent upload schedule but as said before, burnout is still very much present and right now the ideas just aren’t really flowing. That said this was a lot of fun to write, it felt good to get back into the flow of things. I look forward to the next post, and until then, stay safe, stay awesome and I’ll see you all next time!