‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Movie Review: Monster Match

It took three prior movies, but Godzilla vs. Kong has finally hit the stride for the Warner Bros. Monsterverse. If it’s the last one, the franchise goes out on top, but if they declare this the end, that all but ensures there will be at least more sequel (see Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and both Friday the 13th “Final” Chapters for proof). If you liked them all, be grateful you got four movies. It lasted longer than Universal’s Dark Universe.

Godzilla vs. Kong in Hong Kong
Godzilla vs. Kong | Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

But, if you’ve been disappointed by the 2014 Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla vs. Kong fixes a lot of the problems. This one has more coherent monster action. The visual effects keep the animation in frame and director Adam Wingard edits more judiciously with the human story. 

Still too many humans in ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’

King of the Monsters and Skull Island already had too many humans, and some return for Godzilla vs. Kong. Why add even more? Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) is back and she checks in with her father, Mark (Kyle Chandler) in more of a cameo. There’s also Kong keeper Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), explorer Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) and many, many more on their mission team.

Godzilla vs. Kong stars Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison in a scientific facility
L-R: Julian Dennison, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry | Vince Valitutti/Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

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The main new human is Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), a podcaster who works at Apex Cybernetics to expose their involvement with monster research. Henry is about 50% successful at making this expository comic relief character work. He does his best, but the script really saddles him with a lot. Some of his one-liners lovingly satirize genre cliches, and Henry is endearing even when he’s trying too hard. 

Godzilla attacks Apex because now it’s time for him to be a villain. Ilene already thinks as soon as they release Kong from the containment facility he’s been in for decades, Godzilla will come for him. So with Godzilla already on the attack, it forces them to hasten Kong’s release.

Who won King Kong vs. Godzilla?

It’s still not quite as simple as releasing Kong to battle Godzilla. They’re trying to take him inside the Hollow Earth. On the way, King Kong and Godzilla fight round one on an ocean freighter. Once the battle begins, the action stays mostly focused on the beasts without cutting away too often. There are some clever bits like pilots reacting when King Kong uses their planes as weapons, and Kong using the battleships to stay afloat. 

Godzilla vs. Kong on the water
Godzilla vs. Kong | Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

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Round two occurs in Hong Kong. King Kong and Godzilla back each other up against buildings, only now it’s not men in suits slamming each other between models. Without spoiling the conclusion, the winner is of course the audience getting to watch this magnificent battle. Wingard also livens up some of the between scenes with his idiosyncratic music choices.

A satisfying conclusion 

Godzilla vs. Kong spends more time with King Kong in his journey to Hollow Earth. King Kong in the Antarctic snow is a beautiful image, and there are other fun images in Hollow Earth. This is the third movie to minimize Godzilla, though. It was the whole gimmick of the 2014 Godzilla to hide him, and King of the Monsters sidelined him too.

King Kong and his human friend Jia
Kaylee Hottle | Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

In his story, King Kong has a relationship with Jia (Kaylee Hottle) who communicates with him via sign language. Their relationship is going for a Spielbergian child and creature vibe. It may be missing a few beats but it’s sincere. 

When he shows up, Godzilla makes the most of his appearances. In a way, it’s a marvel this movie even exists. Godzilla vs. Kong has elements of classic Japanese Kaiju movies, rendered in ultra-realistic computer animation. That wasn’t enough to make King of the Monsters palatable, but it’s far more engaging here.