Godzilla vs. Kong is performing epically, at least in pandemic box office terms, and it’s easy to understand why. The film delivers grand blockbuster entertainment. It’s a slugfest with breathtaking effects. It’s sleek, thrilling and punches all of the right giant monster buttons as a culmination of multiple storylines in Legendary’s MonsterVerse.
GvK operates on a few levels, and since it’s available on HBOMax, it invites multiple viewings. After all, it moves fast and feels fairly concise at just under two hours runtime.
First of all it brings the awe. When I was a kid, our mall’s Spencer’s Gifts had a King Kong poster mixed in with the dazzling black light offerings. Just a black-and-white still from the 1933 RKO flick, it pictured a shackled Kong on stage before tiny showmen and audience members. It always took my breath away because it conveyed Kong’s size so well, and it’s stuck with me more than any splashy fluorescent images that surrounded it. It still does a bit, deep down.
Like MonsterVerse films before it, GvK serves up dazzling Titans of incredible size and power, jaw-dropping in their realism with plenty of perspective conveying their proportions. Think an incredible clash at sea with K and G. Or Kong bouncing off Hong Kong skyscrapers. Or beyond these Titans another, well that would be spoiling.
Let’s just say the film provides enough bang for a pandemic pressure release plus an impressive visual journey to the MonsterVerse’s Hollow Earth and a warm, earthy depiction of Kong in a primordial Skull Island repose. It’s visually rich and a bit of a relief when we’ve spent a year indoors and fearing the invisible.
Secondly, the flick is a culmination of everything so far in the MonsterVerse, following on the heels of hints dropped in Godzilla: King of the Monsters with that Hollow Earth.
Exposition is fast and maybe incidental for awe-level viewing. But GvK layers on more mythology and worldbuilding plus the great Demián Bichir (The Bridge). He’s the requisite monomaniacal head of mega tech firm Apex with Eiza González as his slightly under-used but equally driven daughter adding menace.
Shun Oguri as Ren Serizawa, son of Dr. Ishiro Serizawa from Godzilla (2014), rounds out their team. They have a brutal and ill-conceived plan to deal with Titans and keep the world safe.
It’s a plan that calls for an energy source, and that requires disregarded physicist author Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) plus “Kong Whisperer” Ilene Andres (Rebecca Hall) and a trip with Kong into the Hollow Earth. The often villainous Skarsgård here delivers a wide-eyed boyish charm to sometimes perfunctory tasks.
Meanwhile Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) from King of the Monsters is back and paired with reluctant sidekick Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison). Throw in conspiracy-theorist podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry). They’d like to expose Apex’s incidentally evil plans.
It’s mostly scientific hokum, but it works in this universe and should make a second viewing for details fun. Plus there’s room for cool speculation about Kong’s past, the Hollow Earth and his fab axe made from the spine of a Godzilla cousin.
This all ultimately blends two types of monster story, the one where the everyday world is invaded by tremendous others and the one where a genie’s let out of a bottle and has to be dealt with.
There’s an argument that a serious science fiction writer might have brought additional oomph to all this. However, there’s enough density to make it all interesting without bogging down Death Note director Adam Wingard’s pace and economic approach. There’s also metaphor to unpack over time.
Thirdly, perhaps a spinoff of the visual verve, is that this all manages to provide lots of both the titular monsters and more. Godzilla’s cheering section may want a bit more, but Kong’s should find joy. Those on the fence about which is more awesome will probably get the highest rewards in true monster battle fashion.
You know what you’re in for generally from the title. If you’re up for crashes, crunches, undersea and above ground plus below ground, check this out. Then spend some time deciding if the dots all connect and if that matters.
WICKED RATING: 8.5/10