Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
I will never get too old to enjoy seeing two giant monsters beating the ever-living crap out of each other and leaving a city in ruins. And I was hoping to scratch that particular itch with the MonsterVerse films but I always left disappointed. 2014’s Godzilla teased the big lizard to the point of absurdity, Kong: Skull Island was all style and zero substance, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters was overstuffed with kaiju and dumb characters and obscured the action with too much blasted darkness.
Well the latest MonsterVerse entry Godzilla vs. Kong isn’t the best film, but it is the best of this franchise thanks to its likeable characters and gorgeous kaiju-on-kaiju action. With a Titan-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s break it down in three punches:
Punch #1 Those pesky humans
Like the Transformers franchise nobody comes to watch these films to see the human characters. But I guess an entire movie with no humans and only kaiju might be too weird and oddly art house, so we are stuck with them for now. At least the characters in GvK didn’t have me rolling my eyes or checking my watch every two minutes.
My favourite is easily Kaylee Hottle as Jia, the deaf orphan who communicates with Kong via sign language. She is incredibly sweet and the only character I have ever cared whether they lived or died in this franchise. Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall and Millie Bobby Brown are all serviceable in their roles which don’t require all that much. Brian Tyree Henry as conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes tries a bit too hard to be funny but he is okay otherwise.
In terms of human villains Eiza González looks hot but that’s about it, and Demián Bichir’s Apex CEO Walter Simmons is about as interesting as plain wallpaper. But the human and kaiju scenes are so well paced that I never got bored with the former.
Punch #2 He ain’t got nuthen on me!
And speaking of monsters, this film really should have been called Kong vs Godzilla as Kong is the focus and the heart of the story. But Godzilla is the bigger worldwide brand so I presume that’s why he got top billing. And the film had to a bit of retooling as Kong was effectively the villain of Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla was the hero (or at least anti-hero) of his two previous entries.
This is an older, gentler Kong than the one we met before and I liked the theme of him wanting to find a home and his touching bond with Jia. Godzilla, however, is not in the movie that much and his “arc” is pretty much showing up twice and kicking Kong’s hairy backside. So I will say that Godzilla fans may be disappointed that there is not a lot of him in this film.
Punch #3 A whole new world
You know some movie trailers that feel like they give away the entire movie? Don’t yuh just hate that? Well I want to give kudos to whoever cut the trailer for GvK because there is a whole lot more in the movie than what the trailer gives away. There is not even a hint of the core plot line (no pun intended) of Hollow Earth or the cool monsters Kong would have to face there. So that was definitely a pleasant surprise. It was also a nice surprise and a cool bit of inter-film continuity seeing a skullcrawler from Kong: Skull Island.
Punch #4 Let them fight
What I wasn’t surprised about was Mechagodzilla being the true big bad, since it had been leaked. But even if it hadn’t, from the time I saw a shady robotics company in a Godzilla film I knew Mechagodzilla was not far behind. And I will say I did like his freakish look. I must point out, however, that Godzilla going all apesh— (or lizard sh— I guess) because of the robot’s presence doesn’t make a lick of sense. I understand he can sense other Titans but how the hell is he sensing a freaking robot? Now an easy fix would have been to make it clear that he was actually sensing the Ghidorah part of Mechagodzilla. And getting the power to power him from Hollow Earth also made zero sense either.
But come on, we’re not here for the paper-thin plot. We paid our money for the action. And thankfully GvK delivers that in spades. The Godzilla versus Kong tanker fight was just freaking epic and easily the film’s best set piece. The visuals, the sound editing, the choreography, everything was just superb. Kong versus the Hollow Earth nasties was cool too, and I loved him sipping from that creature’s head after he ripped it off. That’s so Kong!
The second and final Godzilla versus Kong fight was fun as well, and I liked that Kong still lost despite having his magic axe thing, which reminded me of Kong inexplicably getting electricity powers in 1962’s campy King Kong versus Godzilla. Godzilla is simply more powerful than the big ape, and it made sense that he cut his tail (that’s a Trini expression there) the both times they faced off.
And the inevitable Godzilla/Kong team-up against Mechagodzilla was entertaining as well if not the highlight of the film. At least it allowed Kong to win a big fight and feel good about himself. Director Adam Wingard has brought us great films like The Guest and You’re Next, and a terrible film in Death Note. With GvK he delivered a fun, entertaining, popcorn flick with glorious scenes of giant monster violence. And at the end of the day, that’s all we really want.
Editor Jules’s Score: 7 out of 10
For Senior Writer Sommer’s take on the film you can check out her video review below:
So how would you rate Godzilla vs. Kong? For my ranking of all previous Kong films you can click here. Or for my review of the first season of Netflix animated series Pacific Rim: The Black you can click here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.