Godzilla vs. Kong Review: Big Fights, Little Brains

In Godzilla vs. Kong, a giant lizard and a giant ape fight--and that's the best thing we can say about it.

The promise inherent to the movie title "Godzilla vs. Kong" is that you will witness a large ape and a large lizard fighting each other, and the poster tagline "One will fall" implies that fight might even be to the death. On that initial promise, Godzilla vs. Kong delivers: The titular monsters battle spectacularly across sea and land, and if that's all you're hoping for when you press play on HBO Max or (gasp) head to the theater, your appetite will likely be sated.

On the other hand, if you're also expecting a halfway-intelligent script or a set of human characters who act like thinking beings with discernible motivations beyond "be in X spot so Y plot event can occur," you'll be massively disappointed.

That shouldn't come as a surprise. Godzilla vs. Kong suffers from the same core issue as so many other wayward kaiju films: The human side of the story verges on nonsense. It's populated by talented, well-liked actors, like Kyle Chandler and Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown (reprising their roles from 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters), as well as Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Lance Reddick, Hunt for the Wilderpeople's Julian Dennison, and more. But those actors are given nothing intelligent to work with, and the film spirals into head-scratching gobbledigook any time they're onscreen.

Hall plays a scientist in charge of studying King Kong, with Kaylee Hottle's mute orphan girl Jia at her side. These two form what passes for an emotional core in this movie; Jia, in particular, fulfills the old trope of the singular human female with which the giant ape forms a bond (though the movie never fully explains how that bond was formed, or why a little girl is given free reign to wander around this research facility and pal around with a dangerous monster).

Throughout these movies, Godzilla has oscillated on a sliding scale between protector and destroyer of humanity; predictably, he's further toward the latter in this one. Naturally, his antagonistic state is due entirely to "humans toying with forces they can't possibly comprehend," although in this case, nobody can comprehend said forces because they don't make sense. To reveal more would verge on spoilers, but it should suffice to say there's a human faction developing a weapon the very source of which will likely make you say "Wait, what? How would that even work?" when it's finally revealed.

Anyway, Godzilla's attacks prompt Hall and the other researchers to attempt to transport King Kong to his theoretical home in order to tap into the energy there. Godzilla, sensing another alpha out in the world (apparently Skull Island was a safe zone), attacks. The fights between these two are explosively creative and undeniably impressive--it's an absolute joy to watch Godzilla and King Kong exchange blows like seasoned combatants, using battleships as stepping stones and flattening entire cities around them. The undeniable, masterful craft that goes into making these gargantuan monsters look cool and awe-inspiring as they try to tear each other apart is almost unfathomable.

That makes it easier to understand why the rest of the movie is so dumb--who has time for piddling concerns like "characters" and "dialogue" when there's a $100 million CGI fight to animate?--although not to excuse it.

The final piece of the ill-fitting narrative puzzle involves Millie Bobby Brown's character Madison and her friend Josh (Dennison) hunting down a conspiracy-minded podcast host (Brian Tyree Henry's Bernie Hayes). Hayes works at the evil research corporation Monarch and hosts an infamous podcast about exposing their secrets from the inside. Even if you're able to overlook the irresponsibility of glorifying QAnon-like conspiracy nutjobs right now, this entire storyline makes little sense, as Hayes makes literally no effort to disguise his identity, and yet nobody at Monarch has seemingly put any effort into finding him and stopping him from leaking their secrets. The podcast host is so easy to find that two children arrive at his house after a single afternoon of lackadaisical hunting. That is not how real life works.

Every single narrative thread ends in a cliché or trope as old as time--the conspiracy theorist who was right all along, the sole human female who can calm the savage beast, the greedy corporate executives who exploit dangerous new discoveries that then very predictably explode in their faces. At one point, a high-tech digital security system is bypassed by literally pouring a can of soda into a keyboard. It doesn't get any stupider than that.

And yet, Godzilla and King Kong fight. They do so spectacularly, and at length, and if that's what you're hoping to see, you're going to get your money's worth. A movie in which kaiju fight each other, and the rest of the script isn't as brainless as your average garden lizard, remains as rare a discovery as Kong himself.

The Good

  • Spectacular fights between the titular monsters
  • Some fun surprises for Godzilla universe fans

The Bad

  • Nonsensical script and idiotic characters
  • Every narrative thread relies completely on tired clichés

About the Author

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's managing editor of entertainment. He watched Godzilla vs. Kong