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‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ delivers monstrous battle for kaiju fans

When reviewing a film, one should take its intentions and what it wants to accomplish into account. “Godzilla vs. Kong” is a movie that lacks compelling writing or interesting human characters. What the audience is given instead, is an amazingly entertaining experience about a giant lizard and ape engaged in an all-out attack.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is directed by Adam Wingard and is the fourth installment of Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s “MonsterVerse.” The king of monsters, Godzilla, suddenly turns heel and begins attacking humanity, leaving them to find a way to stop the atomic breathing kaiju with the help of Kong.

Two monstrous icons clash for supremacy in “Godzilla vs. Kong. (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment)

The film has become successful globally, debuting with $48.5 million in sales in the U.S. and grossing more than $285 million worldwide. The film is out in theaters and available on the HBO Max streaming service until April 30.

The human personalities are not complex, as they play side characters for the movie’s two gigantic stars. The film can be divided into two parts, each representing which titan the humans side with. One part focuses on finding out why Godzilla is attacking people after protecting them for so long, while looking into a secret technology organization called Apex Cybernetics, run by Walter Simmons, played by Demián Bichir. The other part explores finding a way to defeat Godzilla with Kong acting as a guide and protector.

The film is at its lowest point when it diverts its attentions away from the monsters.  Recurring characters like Madison Russell, played by Millie Bobbie Brown, who had importance in “Godzilla: King of Monsters,” does nothing in the film.

The character Jia, a deaf orphan who can communicate with Kong via sign language, played by Kaylee Hottle, is arguably the most outstanding in the movie, especially during the film’s more emotional moments. “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the first feature film for the young deaf actor.

Another standout character is Bernie Hayes, a podcast conspirator played by Brian Tyree Henry, who adds comedy to contrast with the serious tones of other characters. Apart from those two, the other human characters in the film do not stand out and are easily forgotten, which has been a consistent issue across many old and current kaiju films.

“The main appeal for ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ has been the long-awaited rematch between two iconic creatures of cinema, who had their first bout in 1962.”

For fans of these movies, it’s not unexpected and likely won’t detract from their viewing experience, as they just want to see the giant monsters. Luckily, the film understands that, and the humans don’t take much screen time away from the titan fights.

The main appeal for “Godzilla vs. Kong” has been the long-awaited rematch between two iconic creatures of cinema, who had their first bout in 1962. The new movie not only succeeds in providing multiple battles worthy of the anticipation, but shows a clear winner between the two.

The film also provides many fun, nostalgic nods to its predecessors. For example, one of the fights takes place in Hong Kong, where they first duked it out 59 years ago. The areas where the two fight also give an excellent display of Godzilla and Kong’s advantages and weaknesses.

Even the music score, composed by Tom Holkenborg, better known by his stage name Junkie XL, draws references from old Godzilla films and the first three “MonsterVerse” movies.

The fights in the film are also well animated and lit. A constant gripe with 2014’s “Godzilla” or “Godzilla: King of Monsters” was that each major fight took place in the dark, making the computer-generated imagery of the kaiju nothing more than shadows. When “Kong: Skull Island” released, its fights were set in the daylight, showcasing the animation.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” seems to draw inspiration from that film as it takes advantage of how excellent they made the titans look. From the poignant facial expressions that were absent from Godzilla in previous films, to a range of camera angles that show off fur and scale textures getting wet or shining against neon lighting.

The film is self-aware; it understands that it’s seen as a movie solely for entertainment. The script feels somewhat rushed with many plot holes. These issues are vital for critical viewing, but the film isn’t meant for that. Instead, it’s meant for seeing a giant lizard fight a giant ape and it provides that with its action, overall scale and care for what these monsters mean to longtime fans.

With a stellar third act, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is something that should be viewed in theaters or at least with proper surround sound, and with a giant wide screen television if it’s seen on HBO Max.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual. 

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