While I am far from ashamed of my love of cult classic movies, I have never dabbled in anything remotely related to the Godzilla or King Kong franchises. Last week, however, I dived headfirst into Legendary Studios’ MonsterVerse with Godzilla vs Kong, released in theatres and HBO Max on March 31. As I loaded the movie on my laptop, the fact that I had not seen the prior three movies in the MonsterVerse series did not deter me at all: Even I knew that Godzilla films are not known for their engaging plots.
Godzilla vs Kong follows the mysterious Apex Cybernetics corporation as they use Kong to access a potential energy source, which allows them to fight back against a seemingly rogue Godzilla and inadvertently incite an ancient rivalry between the two monsters. The film is best enjoyed by turning off one’s brain during the scenes of human exposition—the plot is paper thin, but its flimsiness effectively contrasts the explosive battle scenes, making audiences wait in agony for the next one to take them out of their misery.
The characters, too, all fall flat. Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) from 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters are the only characters in the film to have appeared in previous movies. This normally implies that they are significant to the plot, but it is far from the truth in Godzilla vs Kong. Madison leads a completely inconsequential subplot that mainly facilitates some mediocre comic relief and unengaging background information for the main plot. On the other hand, Dr. Mark Russell is barely in the film at all.
The multiple new characters are unmemorable, with most of their names forgotten by the time Godzilla vs Kong hits the halfway point. Their overwhelming number makes it difficult to feel any emotion for them beyond annoyance, and their scenes take time away from giant monster battles. All of the actors’ performances, while not necessarily the worst of all time, are perfunctory and placid. Perhaps this delivery is intentional, as this allows the human characters and plots to irritate and distract the audience, subsequently making them more excited and engaged by the massive battle scenes.
The saving grace of the movie is ultimately its monsters: Godzilla vs Kong pushes the titular titans to the forefront of the film, inducing chills even when watched on a meager laptop screen. The CGI is extremely impressive, giving all the monsters a sense of intricate realism while they commit the most unrealistic of acts—from drilling a hole to another world with laser vision to destroying multiple skyscrapers with a couple of punches. The choreography in every fight is dynamic, engaging, and stunning to watch. The backdrops of the fights are equally dazzling, from the early ocean battle between Godzilla and Kong to the final showdown in Hong Kong, with a neon architectural aesthetic reminiscent of works like the Pacific Rim franchise, the Blade Runner duology, and Neon Genesis Evangelion series.
Objectively, Godzilla vs Kong is a forgettable, bad movie. In many ways, it lacks humour, and feels like a rushed and nonsensical version of The Avengers (2012). If you are looking for a powerful, nuanced, and emotional film to watch, this is not the right movie for you. But the intense action is more impactful than I could have ever expected, and it provides a unique viewing experience that requires one to zone out to enjoy. Given the distraught state of the world, the timeline of this taxing online semester, and the common student desire to be able to turn off their brain, Godzilla vs Kong is somehow the most palatable theatrical vehicle 2021 has produced thus far.