This will be my review of Godzilla vs Kong, so be warned that there will be spoilers-a-plenty below.
One thing that is not really a spoiler is that the movie is told primarily thought Kong’s perspective and he is, in every measurable way, the main protagonist of the film. The movie follows him around, and gives him the biggest story arc. While Godzilla shows up throughout the movie to do Godzilla things, it’s clear that Kong is the audience surrogate, which somewhat miraculously works really well. As such, I’ll be writing this review mainly through Kong’s perspective.
When we last saw Kong, it was was 1970’s, and he was left to his own devices on Skull Island. But thing have changed a lot since then, and we get some details about those changes through expository dialogue. As you may recall from Kong: Skull Island, there was a massive superstorm that surrounded the island, while never really making landfall. Apparently, that changed, and the storm began tearing up the island itself. In order to keep Kong safe for observation, Monarch (the Kaiju experts from previous Monsterverse films) built a giant dome around a section of Skull Island.
This makes sense in that Kong can remain, more or less, in his natural habitat while the scientists observe him. It would also be extremely dangerous to move Kong anywhere else where he might encounter humans, other potential collateral damage, or even threats. The biggest such threat would be the reigning, and defending, King of the Monsters World Heavyweight Champion: Godzilla. Old Zilla claimed the title by defeating King Ghidorah a few years prior, leading to many surviving Titans literally bowing to him at the end of Godzilla: King Of The Monsters. As the opening credits inform us via bits and pieces of news reports, Godzilla has been putting a whooping on any dissident Titans between the end of that movie and the beginning of this one.
Anyway, we see Kong’s morning routine of waking up, yawning, scratching his butt, taking a shower in a waterfall, and chatting with his best friend. His best friend happens to be a little girl with whom Kong communicates via sign language. But he’s no dope, he knows that he’s domed in, and makes his displeasure known by uprooting trees, twisting them into giant spears, and hurling those giant spears through the top of the dome. Clearly, he’s not happy about being kept in an enclosure like some zoo animal. All this aside, the little girl and her scientist mother do have Kong’s best interests at-heart.
Apex Industries, a mutli-billion-dollar tech company, have something else in-mind for Kong. To cut to the chase: Apex wants to be able to stand against Godzilla, and other Titans, by building one of their own: Mecha-Godzilla. Their creation is a technological marvel and nightmare, that is piloted using the psychic connection between two of Ghidora’s heads – which were conveniently available after his last tango with Godzilla. Essentially. Mecha-Godzilla requires a shit-ton of power to run, and Apex has located a source of seemingly limitless energy in the Hollow Earth.
Most people believe Hollow Earth is just a myth, as no one has successfully ventured there. But Apex enlists a disgraced expert on the subject, who’s brother died during the last attempt to reach Hollow Earth, to guide them to their destination. As it happens, the core of the Hollow Earth theory is that it is the origin point for all Titans, so they are able to sell the Monarch team on Skull Island on the idea that bringing Kong there is what’s best for the big fella himself. Allowing him to finally go back to his true home which, as it turns out, is pretty much Kong’s entire motivation through the film.
Next thing we know, Kong is heavily-sedated, and chained to a cargo freighter en route across the sea to Antarctica, where they believe the entrance to Hollow Earth can be found by following Kong following his genetic memory. They chart a course away from Godzilla’s usual territorial beat in hopes to avoid an incident. Naturally, said incident is not avoided at all. Godzilla attacks the boats, destroying most of them, before attempting to drown a drugged and chained Kong by capsizing the freighter. The scientists manage to free Kong, and allow him to fight back. But the ocean is Godzilla’s home field, so the already-groggy Kong can’t do much other than survive the fight before the remaining ships “play dead” in order to get Godzilla to leave them be.
Things are not going great for Kong, as he was dragged off his island, and across the ocean on a trip he does not want to take, and then jumped by Godzilla. This is the first of their three-round fight, but hardly counts since the playing field was far from even. It was more like the pro-wrestling angle where one guy cracks another guy from behind with a steel chair the week before their big pay per view match.
Team Kong arrives in Antarctica, where the big guy wakes up in the freezing cold, looking as miserable as can be. This is a sentiment that any reasonable person (or gargantuan ape) can equally relate to. The team gets Kong’s little girl buddy to tell him to go down the largest, darkest hole ever with the promise that he might find some family down there. Kong happily obliged as, if nothing else, it’s got to be warmer down there than is was outside. And, again, the poor guy really just wants to find a nice home to settle into. The scientists follow him, and end up in Hollow Earth.
Hollow Earth looks a lot like a much, much bigger Skull Island, and Kong looks to be happy for the first time in the movie. There are a few giant-bat-snake-monsters that attack the humans, but Kong easily takes them out. Therein lies, perhaps, the biggest different between Godzilla and Kong: Kong has people he actually cares for, and wants to protect, while Godzilla just wants to defeat every other Titan in order to remain the apex predator. Aside from Godzilla’s atomic blast breath, this mindset is probably Zilla’s biggest competitive advantage.
While in Hollow Earth, we also get glimpses of some other – less openly hostile – kaiju as Kong makes his way to his ancestral Kongston Abbey. He finds some ginormous doors to go through, a really cool glowing axe, and even a throne fit for a King (Kong). His ancestors seem to have been the rulers of Hollow Earth, and Kong makes himself at home. Finally, it seems that everyone will let Kong do Kong.
No sooner does he settle in, though, than Godzilla invades Hong Kong, where they are keeping Mecha-Godzilla. Kong, again, has no interest in fighting. But Godzilla is a real asshole through most of this movie, looking to pick fights with whomever might challenge his reign. Apex fits this description, but Kong just wants to kick back, and do his thing. Godzilla, however, pulls a major dick move and uses his atomic blast breath to blow a hole deep into the ground, and through the roof of Kongston Abbey. Leaving Kong no choice but to lay a smackdown of his own on the legendary lizard. With axe in-hand, Kong is able to put Zilla on his ass for a while, winning round two. Or, round one of their first legitimate fight, if you’re not counting Godzilla’s previous heel sneak attack.
Godzilla manages to get back to his feet again, but Kong is waiting to get the drop on him. It’s a pretty brutal fight, during which Kong looses his equalizing axe and, subsequently, the fight. Godzilla roars in his face to demand Kong surrender, but Kong bows to no one, and roars a big “Eff You!” right back at his opponent. But, the damage is already done, and Kong cannot continue the fight. So, Godzilla gives him a nod of begrudging respect, and takes his leave.
Unfortunately for everyone, Apex was sent a chunk of the Hollow Earth power source, and used it to send Mecha-Godzilla into overdrive. The influx of limitless energy kills the pilot, and seems to reawaken Ghidorah’s consciousness in Mecha-Godzilla. The Rumbling Robot takes to the streets of Hong Kong, and begins absolutely wiping the floor with Godzilla. Team Kong has noticed during all this, that Kong is dying. So, they use an energy burst from one of the high-tech ships they flew to Hollow Earth in to kickstart his heart.
So, the big fella wakes up, grabs his big axe, and is like “Cool, I’m alive. Let’s get back to that awesome new home you found me.” But then his little buddy is like “Hey, I know you just almost died from your fight with Godzilla, but we kinda need you to interject here, and save him from that gargantuan killing machine, who is currently dragging Zilla’s ass across the entire city. Okay?” At which point Kong is like “Are you friggin’ serious?” And his little buddy is like “Afraid so, big guy. You up for it?” And Kong sighs heavily before agreeing “Fine. Eff it. I’ll be right back.”
Kong fairs a bit better than Godzilla did, and they briefly turn the contest into a two-on-one match before Mecha-Godzilla reclaims the advantage. Remembering that his nuclear fire breath charged up Kong’s battle axe during their fight, Godzilla blasts the axe blade again. The blade glows with energy, and Kong then uses it to fully dismember Mecha-Godzilla. Kong manages to win the final boss battle of the movie, shaking up the rankings (rock-paper-scissors style) as Godzilla defeated Kong, Mecha-Godzilla defeated Godzilla, and then Kong defeated Mecha-Godzilla.
Even after all that, Godzilla gets back up, and roars with a “We gonna throw down again, brah?” Kong, deciding to be the bigger Titan, responds “Nah, we’re cool.” and drops his axe. At which point Godzilla turns around to swim back out to sea, and Kong returns to Hollow Earth where he can finally chill out in his throne room, and do things his way. His little buddy, her scientist mom, and the disgraced scientist are also shown hanging with Kong in his true natural habitat. So, in the end, everyone got what they wanted….aside from the several thousand people unlucky enough to have their city turned into a kaiju battlefield, and whomever ends up having to pay for the several trillion dollars in property damage.
In all seriousness, though, I really enjoyed this film. If what you want to see is Godzilla vs Kong, you’re gonna get your money’s worth. If you’re looking for something more than that, you may want to look somewhere else. I did watch this both on HBO Max, when it premiered, and a second time in a movie theater. If you’re feeling brave enough, and have a nice, comfy mask, I recommend seeing it on the big screen.
In fact, I liked all four Monsterverse movies. Godzilla (2014) was the most deliberately-paced, and most “real-world.” Kong: Skull Island was the most fun. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters was the biggest spectacle. And Godzilla vs Kong felt like the most personal. You may have a hard time believing that a film can put you in the giant shoes of a titanic ape but, if you’re curious about trying, you should absolutely see this movie.