Movie Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) - A visual extravaganza, and some humans too!

Oh boy, do I love a good crossover episode.

Often, I've been disappointed by two shows intertwining, like the tedious episodes of Grey's Anatomy when it introduced Addison Montgomery to her new co-workers as the writers set up the spin-off series Private Practice. There have also been crossover gems like Family Guy and The Simpsons joining forces for an hour special that gave us Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson washing cars in tight clothing and with ultra firm ass cheeks.

Now we have the union of the monster duo Godzilla and Kong in the same film. Previously on Monsters Gone Wild, we watched as humans began to understand how these creatures have lived amongst us in Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Like Detective Stabler's recent return on Law and Order: SVU, we've known this crossover was coming for quite some time. And it's worth the wait.

Yes, dear reader, I am well aware that Godzilla vs. Kong is a standalone film. Still, much like the Marvel or DC comic film entries that continue the story from previous films, Godzilla vs. Kong is a new episode in a franchise that exists to showcase an epic battle. Thankfully, Kong and Godzilla are also the leads in this film, with humans acting as commentators to what our massive monsters can't verbalize, or at least not yet.

Directed by Adam Wingard, Godzilla vs. Kong is an absolute spectacle. Just watch as Godzilla comes for the chained-up Kong in the middle of the ocean, swimming just beneath the surface until the final moments to induce stomach-churning stress. Wingard takes a note from Peter Jackson's book and shows us the scope of these battles from distant heights, and showcases everything unfolding in front of human eyes. Then, as though on a rollercoaster with an abundance of loops, the camera swirls around these massive creatures in mind-bending action sequences that are brilliantly captivating.

When all goes quiet, and Kong can take a breather for a moment, Wingard smartly gives our mammoth gorilla time to show us his exhaustion, fear, and determination. But Godzilla doesn't rest. She's always ready for battle, and so is Kong.

There isn't much to know if you haven't seen the previous King Kong or Godzilla films. These are two territorial creatures vying for dominance no matter the cost to dear cities who fall easily to their battles, which might've taken place in less populated areas.

When we meet Kong, he is waking from a slumber, or possibly a hangover, as he rises and walks through his forest surroundings. He has been living in a research facility, not dissimilar to poor Truman in The Truman Show, and is not happy about it. He is being studied by anthropologist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who is the sole survivor of the Iwi tribe.

Elsewhere, Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) enlists Hollow Earth expert Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgåd) to access the Earth's core for clear villainous reasons. Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), who somehow survived the devastating destruction in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, teams up with Apex investigator and anonymous podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), and her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison, all grown up), to uncover what Apex is trying to accomplish. The truth is more severe and action-packed than they could ever expect. Did someone order a Mechagodzilla?

Jia, Dr. Andrews, and Nathan lead Kong toward the source of energy from which Godzilla and fellow Kaiju can extract more power, and they encounter an otherworldly situation that sends them into an alternate universe. What they find uncovers the deep power within the Earth from which Godzilla draws her flame.

At the heart of the film is Jia's connection to Kong. She has taught him sign language and can tell his emotions just by the reverberation of his beating heart. In one beautiful scene, she walks out on the ship's bridge amidst a storm, approaching Kong calmly as he awakens. Her presence touches him. As she extends her index finger, so does Kong, who offers a delicate touch. The scene vividly captures Kong's heart and eagerness to connect.

Cinematographer Ben Seresin captures these brilliant moments before sending the camera spiraling through the action sequences that include overturned ships, catapulting Kong high into the air, and capturing Godzilla's wrath through her neon blue phlegm of destruction. Terry Notary, who plays Kong, grounds the creature with thoughtful considerations, like when Jia, in sign language, informs Kong that if he enters through a cave-like opening, he might find his family within. Kong's face registers apprehension and acceptance of his choice. It's a surprisingly refreshing opportunity to give Kong the complexity he deserves as a creature who elicits strong emotions just from a single eye movement.

In the final sequence, Godzilla rages like she has been woken at 3 am by careless neighbors screaming and jumping into the downstairs pool. Godzilla stomps her way through Hong Kong city and throws her fists at Kong.

It's only when they team up to defeat a common enemy that you realize there is a beautiful love story at the center of this film, and when they make eye contact, you will undoubtedly swoon.

Now available to stream on HBO MAX.