It has been fifty-eight years since these two cinematic titans have clashed and the new rematch between Godzilla and Kong, the two most iconic giant monsters in all of cinema, is a fight for the ages and a welcome return of big-budgeted blockbuster filmmaking after it having basically taken a year off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It has been several years since several giant monsters were unleashed on the world only to be defeated by Godzilla. (See the events of 2019’s Godzilla: King Of The Monsters) The world has been relatively monster free until Godzilla attacks a a research facility owned by Apex Cybernetics. Scientists are baffled by the attack, but teen Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown, returning from the last film) joins with a school friend and a conspiracy theory-spouting podcaster to investigate what may have been inside the facility that drew Godzilla to it.
Meanwhile on Skull Island, Kong, who missed out on the last big monster rumble due to his isolation, is starting to outgrow his habitat. Scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) convinces Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall as the Diane Fosse of giant apes) that the best place for Kong is his ancestral home in the land in Hollow Earth at the center of our planet. As they attempt to take Kong to one of the pathways to the Hollow Earth in Antarctica, they are attacked by Godzilla who senses Kong as a rival to his position as apex predator on the planet. The duel ends in something of a draw, leaving Kong and crew to head towards Hollow Earth while Godzilla is now mysteriously drawn towards Hong Kong. But the two will meet again.
Godzilla may have top billing on this fight card, but the main attraction of this film is definitely Kong. He is the one the film centers on as the humans try to help him return to his possible home at the center of the Earth. In many ways the main story is Kong’s journey of discovery, something we have never really seen in a giant monster movie before. Godzilla only appears when he is compelled to defend his position as the apex predator. It is a characterization that is certainly inline with how the Big G has been presented throughout this film cycle – starting with 2014’s Godzilla – so this is not really much of a heel turn for him. If anything, it shows the folly of the human race for trying to attach motives to Godzilla’s previous actions that might not be accurate.
Of course, the science in this makes no sense. But that is to be expected in a series that has already given giant monsters, of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial origin, uncharted islands, lost civilizations and undersea kingdoms, what’s a hidden world at the center of the Earth and a giant robot among friends? If anything, the franchise should be admired for going hard on its crazy pulpy influences. There is certainly the temptation to play such elements for a degree of camp, but the MonsterVerse franchise has always taken it’s outlandish concepts with a level of seriousness that usually helps root the human drama going on underfoot of the giant monsters.
That said, the human characters in Godzilla Vs Kong are not as well defined as they have been in previous installments. Here they seem to serve mostly to just steer the audience from plot point to plot point. Madison and company’s impromptu investigation into Apex really feels as if it is there so the characters can get accidentally transported to Hong Kong so they can discover some secrets that set up the film’s third act big brawl. The human characters centered around Kong’s story line fare a little better, if only because there are the stakes of getting Kong to a place of safety so he won’t attract an angry Godzilla. If anything, the most interesting relationship is between the young girl Jia, the last survivor of the human tribe that inhabited Skull Island, and Kong, and even that feels underdeveloped.
For fans of the genre, the film contains a couple of nice nods to its past. One of the biggest, yet still most subtle, may be to the original 1933 King Kong, with the glossing over of the process of how they managed to get a sedated Kong off of Skull Island and onto a transport boat. Unfortunately, the film’s score by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, bears the unfortunate distinction of being the only score in this franchise iteration to feature Godzilla but not quote from Akira Ifukube’s iconic music he wrote for the very first film from 1954.
Godzilla Vs Kong wraps up all the loose plot threads that have been woven through this four film giant monster movie cycle and makes sure not to leave any new ones. While it would be fun to see more of these titans tussling while us puny humans run for cover, if this winds up being the end of this particular iteration of these colossal icons, at least things end with a rousing bang.