REVIEW: There’s not much for the audience to win in ‘Godzilla vs Kong’

More than a decade has passed since “Cloverfield” was released in 2008. Since then we’ve had another new monster tale in “Pacific Rim” and some returning stars such as when Godzilla returned in 2014.

Finally, this year, two of the most famous movie monsters went toe-to-toe. It’s a shame that all these years later, this film featuring the fight is on the lower end of recent movies in the genre.

As the title of this film clearly implies, the giant lizard with atomic breath Godzilla takes on the mega ape Kong. The movie takes place in the Monsterverse, where Kong has lived secluded on Skull Island, while Godzilla has become more well known, having defeated Ghidorah in 2019’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”

In this film, Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) is recruited by a company to bring Kong to the Hollow Earth, which exists beneath the Earth’s surface. Nathan is informed that doing so could lead titans such as Kong and Godzilla to live in the Hollow Earth area and prevent more destruction on the surface.

To pull off the mission, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), who studies Kong, is brought in to help. They begin moving Kong toward the entrance to the Hollow Earth in Antarctica. However, Kong’s presence outside of Skull Island draws Godzilla’s attention and the two end up meeting with a desire to determine which titan is king.

To begin, yes. This movie is about seeing a giant lizard fight a big monkey. The spectacle of this big battle is the main draw, that is true. However, that does not mean it gets to avoid criticisms.

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Let’s talk about the good first, though. The sequences where Kong fights Godzilla are pretty good. The scale is certainly there, with Kong throwing massive haymakers at Godzilla and the giant lizard coming back with his signature atomic blasts. There’s plenty of entertainment value in their battles. This is true in the final act as well, when a third combatant enters the fray.

With that said, the action can become a bit exhausting after a while, too. The movie doesn’t offer anything all that new when it comes to the fighting. There are buildings getting smashed up as Kong and Godzilla have their Pay Per View title fight, but it’s not all that different from what audiences already saw in the 2014 “Godzilla” or 2019’s “King of the Monsters.”

One of the things that actually benefited “Kong: Skull Island” was that it took place in a a barren island and not a huge city. There’s some fun visuals in seeing the two monsters basically use giant buildings as their battle playground, but even that wears its welcome.

Where the movie really drops the ball, though, is in its storytelling. There’s an entire B-plot with three characters trying to figure out what’s driving Godzilla’s search for Kong that could be completely cut from the film. Having this section of the movie be cut would make the film a lot tighter story-wise, and also shorter, which would be nice since this thing approaches the two hour mark.

Most of the characters featured in this monster mash are either generic or completely annoying, too. Brian Tyree Henry’s Bernie is an example of the latter. A guy with a podcast about the titans, Bernie is investigating the nefarious company Apex which is doing titan-related experiments.

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Courtesy Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.

Bernie is an insufferable comic relief character who’s far more annoying than he is funny. He’s also one of the main characters in the B-plot, and is joined by Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), who was the daughter of the main characters in “King of the Monsters.” Joining Bernie and Madison on their adventure in investigating Apex is the latter’s friend Josh (Julian Dennison).

Bernie isn’t alone. Josh is another comic relief character who may be even more annoying than Bernie himself.

Outside of that trio, there’s also a completely generic big business villain in Walter Simmons, played by Demian Bichir. He is a completely stock rich bad guy, to the point where he has a glass of liquor in his hand as he monologues his plot.

Traditional genre characters aren’t necessarily a bad thing in these films either, but if they’re going to be there, it really helps to have a stronger cast. Take “Kong: Skull Island” for example. The characters in there were pretty standard, but it had a cast of Tom Hiddleston, Samuel Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson and John C. Reilly, which helped immensely in giving the protagonists and antagonists personality.

That is woefully lacking in this flick. The only characters in the film that an audience can really connect with are Irene and Nathan, along with a young girl, Jia, who’s formed a bond with Kong. Yet, because of the B-plot with the other trio, their time is more limited.

As previously stated, the main draw here are the giant monsters and their battles. However, making up the time in between their fights are the interactions between the characters, and with them being lacking, it hurts the overall feature.

Giant monster lovers will certainly appreciate this one and casual action viewers can get entertainment value out of this. But for general audiences, this picture is entirely skipable. 2.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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