By John Hanlon
Newly released on Blu-Ray, Godzilla vs. Kong promises a showdown between the two titans. Even the title card suggests that this is a cage match, a wrestling battle between two worthy adversaries. Arriving after a series of recent films that introduced each of the title characters to a new generation, this new film delivers on its premise of a major brawl even though it sometimes stumbles along the way.
In the last decade, films like Kong: Skull Island (2017) to Godzilla (2014) and its sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) set the stage for their showdown here. As Godzilla vs. Kong begins, Godzilla remains in the ocean — after heroically saving civilization — while Kong lives locked in a preserve, unable to venture out. While a conflict is inevitable between the two, it's fitting that the story begins by showing the dichotomy between one titan who roams free and is celebrated throughout the world while the other is secluded and locked in a cage.
When an opportunity arises to free Kong and return him to the Hollow Earth, the rumored birthplace of the titans, caretaker Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) agrees to help transport him. Alongside the scientist’s deaf daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) and a reclusive scientist named Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), Andrews hopes to move Kong to this new location without alerting his ancient enemy, Godzilla.
In a separate storyline, Godzilla emerges from the ocean and attacks an Apex scientific facility, leading to questions about his intentions. Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) wants the answers to those questions and recruits conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) and her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) to investigate the facility, which is run by megalomaniac Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir).
The opening scenes reintroduce the two titans while also introducing or re-introducing some of the main human characters. While many of the actors are new to the franchise, Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler (who only appears briefly) return as their King of the Monsters characters.
Of course, the feature exists to pit the two major titans against each other and there are plenty of sequences that do just that. Director Adam Wingard — better known for horror films on a much-smaller scale like You’re Next (2011) and The Guest (2014) — ably manages to bring a few memorable fight scenes to life. The first major battle here takes place in the middle of the ocean and even though the action scenes sometimes lack a cohesive flow, there are a few great shots and memorable moments here that capture the intensity of the battle and the repercussions of the fight. Wingard does more than show the two punching each other, however. He shows how the titans are affected by their hits and how they suffer the consequences of their injuries.
The screenplay by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein also helps serve the story well, even though there are a few one-dimensional figures littered about. The script allows characters like Jia to develop a real and lasting relationship with Kong and there’s a beautiful dynamic between the little girl and the large gorilla. While building on its recent predecessors and appreciating the work done by those filmmakers, this story also includes references and characters that were established alongside these characters long ago.
The third act brings many of the human characters together in one location and also sets up a major battle between the two titans and a new enemy. The climax is truly a spectacle that fulfills the promise of the movie itself and offers the all-out spectacle that viewers were promised with a film like this.
Although some of the story elements are familiar and only superficially satisfying (like the subplot about Hayes' conspiracy theories), the screenplay does succeed in presenting a few solid relationships along the way. Ultimately though, it's the big, larger-than-life, sequences that makes this feature worth watching, especially for those already interested in this cinematic universe.
Blu-Ray Special Features: The Blu-Ray includes commentary from the director and several featurettes about the film, including backgrounds on some of the creatures featured here. Several worthy featurettes also delve deeper into the fight scenes here, showing some behind-the-scenes commentary on the action sequences.