MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Monster/Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Kaylee Hottle, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Lance Reddick, Ronny Chieng, John Pirruccello, Chris Chalk/Runtime: 113 minutes
I think it’s safe to say that all the way back in 2015, we as movie goers finally began to saw the format for what is now known as the MonsterVerse begin to be molded and shaped for what it would become. This is because in the aftermath of film helmer Gareth Edwards’ 2014 take on Godzilla, Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures announced that the infamous lizard behemoth would be inserted into his own little universe; a universe that would soon come to see the addition of infamous monkey extraordinaire King Kong and in the process set up a cinematic rematch that audiences all over the world had been waiting for in the aftermath of the first King Kong vs. Godzilla all the way back in 1962 respectively. To that end, we saw this blossoming franchise expand with both Kong: Skull Island in 2017 and Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019 respectively which helped to set up characters, locales, and important moments which all of course have now led to the Titan throw-down that is Godzilla vs. Kong from unique film helmer Adam Wingard. So how does it all work out? Well sadly it’s not exactly the say-all, end-all that you might have been inclined to believe it to be. This is because despite having a trinity of films to establish this one’s foundation, to say nothing of being in development for 5 years, this slice of cinematic pie does still spend its whole first act introducing us to both characters and important points in the narrative. Indeed this is one part of Godzilla vs. Kong that might not rub fans the right way especially since it sees the beginning of this movie’s narrative being a little bit harder to get through than you would like. Thankfully, the film does improve from there and after being hit or miss at the beginning does become quite the fun time filled with a cheesy yet engaging narrative, wonderful design work, and some monster fights that are jaw-droppingly amazing in all the best ways.
The plot is as follows: Godzilla vs. Kong is distinct in how it manages to operate as a continuation of a pair of distinct narratives. Those of course being that this slice of cinematic pie is a continuation not only to the events that went down in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but also is one that will give you the vibe that this is the follow-up to a sequel to 2017’s highly underrated Kong: Skull Island that we as movie goers sadly never got to see be given the light of day (hence you can most likely take a pretty darn good shot in the dark esque guess as to which of that duo is filled to the brim with narrative exposition). Be that as it may be, the incident in this slice of cinematic pie that starts this film’s narrative off proper is one and the same and that takes the form of our favorite atomic breathing lizard Godzilla deciding to make an unexpected visit to none other than Pensacola, Florida and during his visit completely and utterly annihilate the American HQ of a company going by the name of Apex Cybernetics. Thus, due to an overwhelming worry that Godzilla’s bedside manner is going to continue to escalate and get even further out of hand (thus spelling potential peril for all of humanity), we see that the guy in charge of Apex, one Walter Simmons, decides to send word to a largely ridiculed by the scientific community researcher by the name of Nathan Lind and gives him the funds among other things in order to carry on with the research he was conducting. Research that, incidentally, revolves around a hypothesis that states that the true home of the Titans might lie at the planet’s core and where Simmons feels that there might be a power source which could at long last provide mankind with an edge against Godzilla himself (?). There is only one little hiccup however: in order to find that which they seek, they will need the aid of another Titan. To that end, we see that Lind makes the choice to reach out to an old colleague by the name of Ilene Andrews, who we see has Kong in a bio-dome like facility on Skull Island and has been researching his behavior. Suffice it to say that, upon hearing about this, those in Kong’s corner are extremely concerned about his health and wellbeing especially with Godzilla lurking about and wanting to prove himself the dominant Titan on Earth. At the same time, there is a group in Godzilla’s corner who wishes to prove he’s not as bad as people seem to think he is. A group that is championed by a former employee and conspiracy nut by the name of Bernie Hayes who is on an odyssey to show that his former place of employment is up to no good. Yet whilst many view him as nothing more than an over-the-top crackpot, there is at least one person who believes what is talking about. That of course being returning Godzilla advocate Madison Russell, who decides to hunt down Bernie with some welcome aid from a highly reluctant yet loyal friend of hers by the name of Josh Valentine. Thus the stage is set, the players are all assembled, and it isn’t long before Godzilla and Kong decide to meet head-on in a series of brawls with no more and no less than the future of mankind’s existence on this planet hanging in the balance, but an even graver threat may lie ahead…..
Now with everything I will say about this slice of cinematic pie, I do feel before I go any further that there is one big detriment to this movie. That of course being that the plot for how this slice of cinematic pie is so predictable that, much to my irate dismay and fury, the marketing department for Warner Brothers seems completely content to reveal certain things that should not have been spoiled in the first place. That aside, at least I can appreciate this movie for being both creative and committed to how odd and quirky this slice of cinematic pie can be. Yes how this movie starts might be insanely hammy including dialogue that could have just easily been omitted and then switched with “Something Something Energy Thingy Something Something Hollow Earth Something”. Thankfully, once Kong, along with a pack of airships, starts leaping from posts that were constructed to support a tunnel located in the Antarctic that leads to a gravitational reversal that is the barrier between the world of the Titans from Earth, it really is not that difficult to just kick back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Now as we have seen in both prior Godzilla movies from 2014 and 2019, and to a much lesser extent with Kong: Skull Island back in 2017, the biggest hurdle that this slice of cinematic pie is saddled with is the cast of human characters at its disposal since they continuously seem to just not be nowhere near as interesting as the ginormous monsters duking it out on screen with them present. Yet, more so than perhaps any other entry in the MonsterVerse, it is in this slice of cinematic pie that this development void is perhaps most obvious as this movie would be a lot better had the cast in this been made up of both protagonists and antagonists we had already crossed paths with in the previous 3 installments. In the case of the main duo on Team Kong consisting of Nathan Lind and Ilene Andrews for example we as movie goers are told how the former’s sibling met a tragic end during a prior stab at going to Hollow Earth and the latter regales us with the annihilation of Skull Island that saw all the natives brutally massacred as well. Yet whilst this sagas are being told to us, you will find that you can’t help but find yourself really wondering just why the heck these things weren’t shown to us in a prior slice of cinematic pie. I mean not only would it be a brilliant example of “showing more than telling”, but it would also provide the 2 leads in Kong’s camp with a lot more emotional gravitas than they possess in this film to begin with. It is in this respect that I feel Team Gojira most definitely has a leg up since our main character on the side of things is a terrific reprisal by Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell from the 2nd Godzilla film from 2019 and also because her dynamic sidekick duo in this might be flat characters, but at least they’re funny especially Brian Tyree Henry. Suffice it to say then that there is nowhere near as much lifting needed on their end of things though the movie does swing and miss quite spectacularly in bringing back Kyle Chandler as Madison’s dad Mark. Not because he’s bad in this, but because the vast majority of his screen time is in just watching this Titanic Throwdown occur from afar.
With that in mind, I feel that perhaps the most crucial task that this slice of cinematic pie is saddled with is it needs to conjure up top-notch sequences that can showcase this truly epic conflict in the best way possible. Thankfully, this is one task that this slice of cinematic pie does phenomenally well. There are at least a few skirmishes between the titular duo in this movie and while there might not be as many as you would like, the skirmishes we get are equally riveting and truly incredible (to say nothing of the fact that those aren’t the only skirmishes this movie presents us with….make of that what you will). Indeed without telling you anything, I will just simply say that the individual skirmishes are not only distinct in what goes down as well as where, but that they do a terrific job of showcasing what each…..character brings to the table as well. Suffice it to say then that if you are in the mood for some incredible monster destruction and chaos you will love this movie. Indeed not only are the monsters themselves incredibly designed and actually look real, but they also come packaged and parceled with a world that also hurtles quite a few other novel and incredible ideas your way. Yet this incredible design work is not just creature exclusive as we see that from the incredible airships following Kong’s convoy to the perilous surprises that Team Godzilla finds whilst snooping around this slice of cinematic pie is a true feast for the eyes and then some. Suffice it to say then that for all the grief I could give this movie revolving around its human characters the monster fights and phenomenal design work makes up for it.
All in all and be that as it may be, I think it is safe to say that at the time of its initial announcement going on five years ago, I can honestly say that it did sound like the slice of cinematic pie that is Godzilla vs. Kong was a film that was being prepared and viewed by and large as an Avengers-style movie that would bring together a lot if not all of at that particular time the ever growing MonsterVerse series and bring them into a blockbuster that was meant to take this franchise to the next level. Suffice it to say that whilst it is a wee bit disheartening that this slice of cinematic pie does not turn out to be the kind of movie that we thought it would be, there are a lot more positives to be found in this slice of cinematic pie than negatives. No this movie most assuredly will not bring anyone into the fold who already doesn’t enjoy movies in this iconic subgenre that are similar to this one. However for those of you who love seeing monsters duke it out with each other or are just in the mood for a slice of cinematic pie that is fun pure and simple than I think you will find quite a bit to enjoy with this one. On a scale of 1-5 I give Godzilla vs. Kong “2021” a solid 3.5 out of 5.