Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Genre: Action, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

Release Date: March 31st, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Adam Wingard Actors: Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Kaylee Hottle

 


 

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omewhere on Skull Island, King Kong is contained in a massive holding center where he’s routinely duped into thinking he has his freedom. Essentially, he’s under house arrest. But it’s for his own good; if his location was discoverable, Godzilla would surely come for him. “There can’t be two alpha titans.”

Meanwhile, at Apex Cybernetics in Florida, conspiracy theorist and podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), an engineering department employee, steals data from a computer, hoping to discover some nefarious goings-on at the facility. And his brief glimpse at a manifest bound for Hong Kong, along with schematics for the secretive Sublevel 33, are just the bits of intel he knows will blow the whole stinking operation wide open. During his act of sabotage, Godzilla strikes, spreading chaos and fear across Pensacola; while the media turns on the monster, dubbing him the enemy of mankind, young Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) tries to convince her father Mark (Kyle Chandler) that something has provoked Godzilla. He’s not the mindless killer he’s made out to be.

Although this sequel (and mash-up) continues along with the storyline of at least one returning family, as well as the inhuman Monarch corporation, there are a wealth of new premises winding throughout, including one involving Denham University researcher Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), whose expertise in Hollow Earth entry and genetic memory brings about a mission to use a specialized aerial vehicle to harness a power source in the middle of the planet – maneuvering firstly through Antarctica. Along for the ride are “Kong Whisperer” Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted, deaf daughter (Kaylee Hottle), as well as Maya Simmons (Eiza Gonzalez), the daughter of Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir), who funds the expedition (thanks to his absolutely limitless resources) with advice from Chief Technology Officer Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri).

Strangely, this latest Kong chapter begins with a lively song accompanying the mighty simian as he relaxes, strolls through a stream, scratches his rump, and saunters across the jungle – in a jovial, goofy manner, harking back to the abominations that were the 1976 theatrical adaptation and its 1986 sequel. And those same, incongruous musical themes and monkey mannerisms seem to follow Kong throughout; here, if Godzilla is the source of antagonistic violence, Kong is the silly, lighthearted hero who can exchange quizzical glances and inflated sighs of disgust with his human companions. “Did the monkey just talk?”

Paired with heaps of cringe-worthy dialogue (mostly spewing from Maya’s terribly generic role) and oodles of jargon (such as “psionic uplink,” “gravitational inversion,” and all sorts of poorly explained notions about needing an energy source to save the world), this long-awaited, big-budget match-up immediately overexerts itself with far too many characters. Bernie, Maddie, and tagalong oaf Josh (Julian Dennison, whose lines are comprised entirely of stale, glib jokes) may have a subplot that sheds light on Apex’s evildoings, but it’s a largely unnecessary diversion. In these types of movies, it’s not difficult to believe that big businesses are inherently wicked. Plus, all of these supporting personas contribute to the comic relief, which is already so abundant that it’s a trying task to take any of this adventure seriously. “Dump the monkey!”

Half of the focus is on exploring a new, uncharted territory – Hollow Earth – which is too farfetched and wild even for a film that asks audiences to believe in the existence of a colossal ape and a lightning-belching water-dragon. Despite the clash of titans being the main draw, too much time is spent on such sci-fi/fantasy nonsense, distracting from the excessive destruction; after all, the human characters are all pointless interferers in what is essentially a CG spectacle of continual apocalyptic mayhem. This series is starting to mimic the appeal – and the downfall – of never-ending horror franchises, in which audiences will ultimately root for the supernatural monstrosities while caring little for the success or failure of the human protagonists. That may help the action, which sees boundless devastation, but it hurts the picture’s ability to be memorable. It’s merely an accumulation of titanic skirmishes; afterward, it’s apparent that there weren’t any meaningful people involved in Godzilla and Kong’s showdown – just collateral damage.

Fortunately, the film does pay off in the action department, creating opportunities for the titular behemoths to repeatedly duel, annihilating more ships, vessels, and property than can possibly be counted. The carnage is spectacular – and of the PG-13 kind, where human casualties are rarely seen (especially when it comes to innocent bystanders). But, as with the previous reboots, nonstop demolishment of familiar cityscapes can’t sustain an entire film; when the story is so cluttered and the human characters so unaffecting, the result is an indistinguishable collection of monster melees (not unlike the last several entries in the Transformers series). “Good luck, big fella.”

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10

MonsterVerse Franchise


Godzilla (2014)

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)