Review: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Brings Spectacle and Action, Lacks Substance

Two powerful titans go head to head in a flurry of lights, expensive C.G.I., and busy action sequences in Adam Wingard’s “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Released in U.S. theatres and H.B.O. Max on March 31, 2021, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the fourth film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse Kong and Godzilla crossover series. As the title suggests, the film centres around Godzilla and King Kong’s dynamic as ‘ancient enemies,’ in a conflict that threatens the safety of the entire world. The film begins with Kong damaging his containment habitat on Skull Island and Godzilla launching a series of violent attacks on an Apex Cybernetics facility. Amidst the chaos, Monarch scientist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last of the Iwi tribe, work with scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) and Apex Cybernetics to harness the ‘hollow earth’ inside the Earth’s core to power a weapon that would defeat Godzilla. Millie Bobby Brown appears as Madison Russell, daughter of Godzilla scientist Mark Russell, who joins with Apex employee and Titan conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes to unravel Apex’s shady dealings. Spoilers ahead.

All in all, “Godzilla vs. Kong” was solid enough, but didn’t bring much to the table. Granted, I haven’t seen any of the past films; I suspect if I had, I may be more partial to the movie. Still, its storylines are often muddy, its characters are scattered, and even the (likely very expensive) fight scenes feel crowded and difficult to puzzle out. The volume of main characters and attached storylines bog down the movie’s momentum and leave us questioning what was the point of them in the first place. For instance, Madison Russell’s storyline involves her and her friend Josh teaming up with Bernie Hayes to discover what secrets Apex Cybernetics may be hiding. However, their actions have little to no bearing on the larger plot itself, aside from a moment where Josh, in a desperate effort to kill the Apex-built Mechagodzilla, dumps Bernie’s flask of whiskey on a computer and fries it, incapacitating Mechagodzilla for Godzilla and Kong to finish off together. Besides this moment, there feels almost no reason for the Madison Russell and Bernie Hayes plotline to exist; we don’t even get much from them by way of characterization, aside from some backstory on Bernie’s late wife. Mostly, they feel more like floundering tools or flimsy excuses the film decided to show us around the innards of Apex with since they couldn’t figure out a smoother way to convey that information. The other leads are a bit sturdier and have more to them but don’t feel that substantial either, aside from a standout exception in Jia and her connection to and friendship with Kong. Most of the characters feel formulaic and repetitive, to the point that they feel less like characters to invest in and more like tools that serve a plot that wasn’t that strong anyway.

Despite its failures in character and over-abundance of plotlines, the idea at the core of “Godzilla vs. Kong” is compelling, and the initial set-up is admittedly, pretty interesting. The conflict is clear (it’s in the title!) and rife with potential for compelling payoff, with a sense that there is deep lore established in not only preceding crossover films, but also individual Kong and Godzilla films too (lore that, as a stranger to this series, I am sadly not privy to). In the first half of the film, though confused at times, I found myself invested and interested in seeing what came next, especially in Jia’s scenes with Kong. It’s solid for its genre, an action movie, hitting all the marks you’d normally expect: C.G.I. action, quippy protagonists, sleek villains (complete with a black and purple color palette), and more. However, its inability to balance its many plotlines, refusal to delve deeper into its characters, and overall lack of originality bog down its quality significantly. We may only wonder how a project with such a compelling premise turned out so mediocre… Watch, if you please, but it’s 133 minutes of time can be spent on anything else.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” receives a 3.5/5 for being a generally decent watch, but saddled with messy plotlines and bland characters.