Godzilla vs. Kong review: Exhausting, but delivers everything you expect – CNET

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Godzilla vs. Kong is out in the US on March 31, in theaters and on HBO Max.

Legendary Pictures

You’re here for one thing: to see Godzilla and Kong fight it out until at least one city topples to the ground. Godzilla vs. Kong delivers just that, with spectacular action, colorful Tron-like neon lights and a pulsating electronic score. These flourishes set it apart from its grayer counterparts in the franchise known as the MonsterVerse, beginning with 2014’s Godzilla. 

Deliberately less serious, with at least one standout performance from a human character, Godzilla vs. Kong offers a crowd-pleasing entry that definitely brings home the spectacle. The best part? It’s under two hours.

Godzilla vs. Kong is out in the US on March 31 in cinemas and on HBO Max. In countries that don’t have HBO Max, the film is supposed to open in theaters on a variety of different dates — March 25 in Australia, March 26 in the UK, and in some countries, including France and Japan, not until May. 

Wisely shedding a few characters from 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the latest monster bash-up focuses on a seemingly straightforward mission: Find Kong a new home, because there can’t be two apex titans living on Earth’s surface. The fabled Hidden World is the answer, bringing scientists played by Alexander Skarsgard and Rebecca Hall together to escort Kong to the not-so-mythical realm’s entrance. Tagging along is deaf orphan Jia, played by a ridiculously adorable Kaylee Hottle, who can communicate with the giant gorilla.

Bogging down events is Team Godzilla: Millie Bobby Brown, who played daughter-of-scientists Maddison Russell in the previous flick; Julian Dennison of Deadpool and Hunt for the Wilderpeople fame; and indisputable comedic standout Brian Tyree Henry as a podcast-running whistleblower. His subject? Evil Tech Company Apex Cybernetics, linked with stirring the of-late peaceful Godzilla into a blue-eyed frenzy.

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Godzilla vs. Kong is a little more colorful than its predecessors.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Everything plays out exactly as already predicted in the trailer’s YouTube comments. The plot merely connects rounds 1, 2 and 3 of Godzilla and Kong’s head-to-head, and you might be pleased to note that director Adam Wingard gives you a definitive winner. (When you think about it, the victor isn’t at all surprising.)

Wingard’s effort expands Godzilla’s usual stomping grounds from overcast, constant-night cities overlooking oceans to the more mystical terrain of the Hidden World. Yet with CGI-galore, this journey to the center of the Earth imagines few distinguishable features to lift it from the vortex of generic fantasy.

The MonsterVerse’s paper-thin human characters have always been superfluous. Yet even with the sidelining of Kyle Chandler’s worried dad and the dropping of Zhang Ziyi’s possibly quite useful mythologist altogether, the additional characters barely do more than react to the quarrel taking place over their heads.

While the dialogue has much improved, including hit-and-miss one-liners, exposition is repetitive and Apex Cybernetics founder Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir) delivers his ideology like he’s in Westworld (thankfully, his biggest speech is swiftly interrupted by one of the monsters).

You feel a little sorry for Godzilla: This is very much Kong’s film. Godzilla can’t catch a break: He totaled something like eight minutes of screen time in the first of the franchise and is almost immediately positioned as the bad guy here. A now adult Kong, with a grizzly beard, has developed a personality. He’s kind to orphan Jia and observes a morning routine involving yawning comically and unabashedly scratching his butt. Kong’s perspective resonates given his closeness to the human species, but still — weirdly — Godzilla seems underserved.

Thankfully, the final battle pulverizes your senses so much you forget where you are. Wingard finds new perspectives to showcase the enormity of the two behemoths, spending a short stretch roller-coastering along with Kong to both thrilling and sickening effect. While the action here is occasionally disjointed and hard to follow, especially in scenes involving water, it’s mostly comprehensible, and especially spectacular in the yellow, green and purple lights of a vibrant Hong Kong. (Miraculously, no civilians appear to get hurt.)

A different film would’ve seen Wingard allowed to bring the horror, dark-wave soundtrack and black humor of his indie films like The Guest and You’re Next. But a few of his signature touches help usher these iconic monsters into their promised shared universe. If you’re craving a truly dazzling blockbuster and are able to catch it in the cinema, Godzilla vs. Kong will satisfy. (Should you wait through the end credits? Short answer: No.)

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