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Review: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is the best MonsterVerse film ever and the best monster movie in years

UPDATED: Thu., April 1, 2021

By Paul Sell For The Spokesman-Review

I grew up watching as many of the Godzilla films as I could. The franchise has always drawn me in with its awe in the face of something stronger than us and how we handle such a threat.

Watching so many Japanese giant monster movies, or kaiju, made me more accepting of ludicrous plots and to take the movie as it is rather than analyze every little moment. But more than anything, it made me realize that cinema is meant to be fun.

Godzilla may have started out as a symbol of pain, anguish and fear of the atomic bomb, but the franchise evolved beyond that notion. It became more about being an experience, and the franchise embraced the zaniness of having so many giant monsters running around Japan.

That’s the strength of monster movies. You’re never meant to take them too seriously, only go along for the ride. After all, what’s the point of a movie if you’re not enjoying yourself?

Thankfully, this tradition continues with the latest entry in the franchise, “Godzilla vs. Kong.” The long-awaited battle between the screen’s two most classic giant monsters learns from the mistakes of the other films in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, namely “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” and draws on the strengths of its better films like “Kong: Skull Island.”

Director Adam Wingard’s $180 million blockbuster is action-packed and thrilling, plays to the strengths of the monsters and yet can be quiet and somber when it needs to be. The film certainly lives up to the legacy of its two titular monsters.

The story begins when Godzilla attacks a robotics facility in Florida connected to a company called Apex Cybernetics. This is the first time Godzilla has attacked humanity, so now the entire world is on edge.

Apex wants to make sure the world is ready for the next Godzilla attack and hires Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) to lead an expedition to obtain a power source in the Earth’s core. But to guide them to the source, Nathan needs another monster who knows the way.

This leads him to Skull Island, where Kong is living in captivity because otherwise Godzilla would attack him. Nathan convinces Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) to move Kong from his home to a cave that would lead them to the power source. But, of course, Godzilla has a few other plans for Kong.

The strength of “Godzilla vs. Kong” is how well it delivers on the monster goodness. Unlike the previous Legendary Godzilla films, all the scenes with Godzilla and Kong are in the daylight or brightly lit areas, which makes the monsters pop off the screen.

It also helps to make their fights more visceral, like every punch from Kong or atomic breath from Godzilla carries a lot of weight. Their fights are fast-paced and take full advantage of each monster’s strengths, especially Godzilla’s brutality and Kong’s resourcefulness.

There are even callbacks to their last fight in “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” like Kong being carried via a lot of helicopters and Kong shoving a tree down Godzilla’s throat. And unlike their last fight, this one has a clear winner.

But above all else, the monsters’ scenes are fun in the most classic sense of the word. I’m not normally one to scream at the movie screen when something great happens, but there are so many moments where I couldn’t help myself with this movie.

It took me back to my childhood when I was watching kaiju fights without a care in the world. Little moments like Kong and Godzilla fighting atop an aircraft carrier or Kong hiding from Godzilla by climbing Hong Kong’s skyscrapers. More than any film in recent memory, “Godzilla vs. Kong” made me feel like a kid again.

The human characters are kept to a minimum but mostly used to good effect. There are two groups of people throughout the movie. The best one is the two doctors with Kong and a deaf girl who befriends the eighth wonder of the world. The friendship between her and Kong is one of the most endearing parts of the movie because of how much both truly care for each other.

The second group is a returning character from “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), and two new characters who try to uncover what Apex Cybernetics is really up to.

The scenes with them are the weakest part of the movie. Everyone is there mostly for comic relief that never hits. Luckily, they’re only in a few scenes, unlike in the previous MonsterVerse movie.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is exactly what a monster movie should be – awe-inspiring, thrilling and fun. It’s light on the characters, and the plot exists to get its monsters together. But once it’s there, the film is pure kaiju bliss.

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