Godzilla vs. Kong is a wind-up toy of digital monster mayhem, but it lacks real charm and personality. For all its destruction and chaos, its actually quite dull.
In a simplistic plot that manages to be presented in a confusing manner, atomic lizard Godzilla attacks a city unprovoked. Godzilla's number one fan (Millie Bobby Brown) teams up with a conspiracy theory podcaster (Brian Tyree Henry) to figure out what Apex Industries might have to do with the attack. Meanwhile, a kindly anthropological linguist (Rebecca Hall) and a little orphaned deaf girl (Kaylee Hottle) want to help giant ape Kong find his true home, and that entails blasting through to the Earth's core because there is a Hollow Earth where all monsters come from or something like that. Complications ensue when Godzilla and Kong cross each other's path and begin fighting. A main problem with these two titans battling it out is that in this series/universe, which began with the 2014 Godzilla and continued with Kong: Skull Island (2017) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), is that they are both on the side of good. So, there really is no side to root for when they fight. Just pick your favorite of the two, I guess. Now another monster from the Godzilla canon of yesterday does show up here as the true villain and, without spoiling it, I will say that I prefer the eviler looking 1970s era design of this creature rather than the clunky look of it here.
The human characters are always second to the monsters in Godzilla movies, but the writers of Godzilla vs. Kong didn't even try to create anyone interesting. There are some potentially sweet moments between the deaf child and Kong, but their scenes together are run through so quickly that they don't resonate.
The digital Kong has some expression and he scratches his ass in one scene, but he doesn't hold a candle to past Kongs, like stop-motion animator Willis O'Brien's very expressive model for the original 1933 King Kong or practical effects master Rick Baker's mask (sorry Carlo Rambaldi, but this is a Baker creation) for the 1976 remake. And let's not forget Andy Serkis's marvelous motion-capture performance in Peter Jackson's 2005 film. As for Godzilla, the old movies are realized with men zipped up in creature suits trampling miniature model cities, and the suit actors, like Haruo Nakajima, have little quirks in their movements that give the behemoth personality. Unfortunately, the digital Godzilla in this new film has no character.
The two giant monsters have met before. In 1962, Japan's Toho Studios, which is the birthplace of Godzilla, was able to license the American Kong and made King Kong vs. Godzilla, which is not only a monster movie, but also a satire of the television age. The ridiculous Kong costume looks moth-eaten and slept in, but it kind of fits in with the movie's silly tone. A year later, the movie came to the U.S. in a re-edited form, removing much of the humor, adding new scenes with American actors, and replacing Akira Ifukube's score with stock music that includes Hans J. Salter's Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) theme. Both versions are available on the Criterion Collection's Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films (1954-1975) Blu-ray box set.
Godzilla vs. Kong is currently in theaters and is also streaming on HBO Max until April 30.
** (out of four)