Fans of the classic Godzilla films have been feeling somewhat mixed about Legendary’s newer films in the franchise. While the 2014 Godzilla did an effective job bringing him back into the current monster fold, he was barely on-screen for the film. And for that matter, while Godzilla: King of the Monsters had epic monster battles, it also had a bit too much of the human element – which audiences didn’t really care about.
Now we get Godzilla vs. Kong, the latest in the series, helmed by horror director Adam Wingard. And while it does have some predictable moments here and there – once again with, yes, the humans – it’s probably my favorite Godzilla film in the series to date. Of course, having Kong definitely helps; and the monster fights these two put on are nothing short of spectacular.
When we’re first introduced to Kong, he’s in a large containment facility in Skull Island, being watched over by scientist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and a young charge that he’s able to communicate with. It appears that he’s being kept in there for his own good, with Godzilla on some kind of legendary hunt for him.
Meanwhile, a scientist named Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) is called upon to recruit Kong to find some kind of lost world, hidden beneath the Earth’s crust. But the corporation he’s hired by, Apex, has some sort of dangerous plan; and that’s something returning character Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) wants to learn more about, alongside a friend and a podcaster named Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry).
There is a bit of human composition here, just like the last films. But Wingard is smart enough to keep it to kind of a minimum here, even with a couple of awkward moments here and there. And it’s got enough flow to keep the film going into its most entertaining parts – the battles between Godzilla and Kong.
The first one, taking place on the high seas, is outstanding, involving exploding jets, battleships serving as platforms and more chaos than you can shake a stick at. It also sets the stage for a huge battle in Hong Kong later on, taking on Pacific Rim for the best neon-lit fight of all time.
And it all culminates with a winner and a loser, of course – and a surprising union when Apex unleashes a monster of its own. And judging by the trailers, you can probably take a good guess who it is. (We won’t spoil here.)
Written by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, the script for Godzilla vs. Kong moves along swiftly. Again, some jokes fall a little flat, and Henry’s podcaster does go a little nuts at times; but overall it keeps just the right flow for a monster movie. Not to mention that there’s some good explanation as to how this ties in with King of the Monsters, even if Kong was an absentee that time around. (At least we have Kong: Skull Island, which is still the best of the monster movies to date.)
Wingard directs with a swift hand, backed by a wondrous effects team that delivers the goods at every corner. The monster fights are epic, especially on the big screen (though you can watch this on HBO Max as well), and the special effects and shots are spectacular. You won’t get bored in the least here, especially with the final fight, where Kong lets loose with a glowing axe like he’s the next Conan.
When Godzilla vs. Kong strays into the human territory, it’s a bit easy for it to lose its way. Fortunately, that doesn’t last very long – even the ending is a bit abrupt – and the general focus on the monsters themselves is never lost. That makes for an entertaining fantasy that’s easily the best current-gen Godzilla movie to date. Here’s hoping we get a round two down the road.