After a long wait, Godzilla vs Kong is finally out, and it has been an interesting journey to say the least. The prior MonsterVerse films (Godzilla 2014/KOTM and Kong Skull Island) have certainly gained a cult status but their actual quality has not rose above decent, with King of the Monsters especially being a misfire despite moments of entertainment. I am happy to report that GvK is not only a step up from KOTM but one of the better entries in the series.
After Godzilla attacks the Apex corporation unprovoked, a team led by Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) and IIlene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) journeys to the centre of the earth to find the energy needed to help Kong challenge him in a fight. Meanwhile, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), provoked by her trust in Godzilla built from the last film, pursues conspiracy theorist Bernie (Bryan Tyree Henry) in an attempt to find out what Godzilla’s motivations are.
The first 5 minutes of GvK alone have more personality, narrative intrigue, excitement, and character than the entire prior film. After an excellent opening action sequence, the film does slow down since it has to establish and develop its two main plotlines, but there is enough action within them to keep some form of engagement. There is a lot of complicated exposition in the script, yet it has focus and a straightforward narrative that is not convoluted. Ideologically, the film also avoids the questionable “genocide is good for the environment” message of the last film and goes back to the same “arrogance of man” message of the first two films.
As for the humans, the film does gives them lively and engaging personalities, even if a few of them do not get enough screen time to register as even 2 dimensional. The ones that fare the best are Tyree Henry and Hall, whilst Skarsgard and Demian Bichir as the typical corporation leader are pretty generic despite their efforts. The best character is the adorable death girl Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who has several heartfelt moments with Kong in the first half (her deafness is handled with respect, which is a plus). Out of the two animals, Kong gets the most focus and he has a lot of personality, whilst Godzilla is used less but is still given a lot to do. The fights between them are worth the price of admission alone, even if there could have been more of them.
If there is a big flaw, it is that the story and characters feel a bit too barebones, as there could have been more done to flesh them out beyond functional and enjoyable. There are often hints at potential depth, but the film always keeps itself focus on the story. Madison’s plotline could have been truncated or given more of a point, there are backstories that get briefly mentioned but are never shown and motivations that could have been complex but feel generic. In general, whilst not outright rushed or underdeveloped, the film could have benefitted from 25 minutes’ worth of extension to add depth and development.
Adam Wingard might have slipped up a little with Blair Witch and Death Note (2017), but he has thankfully made a solid transition to blockbuster filmmaking whilst still maintaining his typical neon visual style, resulting in action scenes that are both gorgeous to look at and shot with scale. The CGI is admittedly very noticeable, but the visuals are so polished and appealing that this is forgivable. His trademark soundtrack choices also works far better here than in Death Note (2017), with the closing track really making the ending work. Junkie XL’s score is epic, and the sound design creates an immersive experience.
It is unfortunate that UK Cinemas still have not reopened, as GvK would have been the perfect comeback. However, it is a step back in the right direction for the MonsterVerse and a very entertaining time, even if it overall lacks in depth (though I doubt that is what most people will want out of this film).