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4K Ultra HD Review: Godzilla vs. Kong

June 15, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

A movie called Godzilla vs. Kong basically only needs to deliver one thing, and that is scenes of two classic movie monsters punching and kicking each other. Thankfully, Godzilla vs. Kong, which serves as the culmination of Warner Bros. and Legendary’s so-called MonsterVerse, delivers on this promise.

The film builds upon the lore that was already established in the recent trio of solo films devoted to both of its title stars, (the brooding 2014 Godzilla remake, the lighter 1970s-set adventure movie Kong: Skull Island, and the overstuffed blockbuster Godzilla: King of the Monsters), and gets down to business refreshingly quickly in having the two Titans fight each other.

The film, of course, was also loosely inspired by the 1963 mashup King Kong vs. Godzilla, which first paired up these two legendary characters. At the start of the film, King Kong is being monitored from underneath an artificial dome by linguist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), whose adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a young Deaf girl who is the last of Skull Island’s Iwi tribe, has formed a special bond with the creature.

Following his victory over King Ghidorah in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla reemerges from the deep and attacks Apex Cybernetics in Penascola, Florida, a rampage that conspiracy theorist and Apex whistleblower Bernie Hayes (Bryan Tyree Henry) believes is linked to mysterious goings-on at the facility. Bernie hosts an Info Wars-type podcast, and one of his avid listeners is Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), the daughter of Monarch scientists whom we first met in King of the Monsters.

Madison sets out with her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) to track down Bernie and get to the bottom of Godzilla’s attack on Apex, whose CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) is working on a secret project to take down the kaiju and reestablish humans as the rulers of the planet. This requires enlisting the help of Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), a professor who has literally written the book on Hollow Earth, where the Titans originated from and some of the film’s action takes place. The human characters get split up into two trios; Ilene, Jia and Nathan on the Kong side, and the delightful tag team of Bernie, Madison and Josh on the Godzilla side.

Much of this is preamble for the WWE-style smackdowns between Godzilla and Kong, now loose in the world, that dominate the film’s second half. This is what audiences are coming for, and these battles are staged in a way that doesn’t disappoint, offering the wanton destruction of seeing two giant behemoths going toe to toe. This includes ripping through the skyscrapers of Hong Kong in the film’s definitive, neon-lit battle that has been teased in all the marketing.

Directed by Adam Wingard, who is coming from a horror background having previously directed the thrillers You’re Next, The Guest and Blair Witch, Godzilla vs. Kong corrects some of the problems of its overlong predecessor Godzilla: King of the Monsters. In some ways, this film has the opposite issue; it clocks in a little under two hours, which is refreshing in an age of bloated blockbusters, and if anything I actually think it could have been a bit longer to flesh out its characters more.

The film also isn’t guilty of keeping the monsters hidden from view, a common complaint of the 2014 Godzilla, which kept him mostly in shadows. The visual effects here are impressive, showing the scope of the two monsters as they smash apart giant buildings. There are some cool uses of colour and lighting as well, and the scenes in Hollow Earth are quite visually striking. The action excites in a primal way, but the film also has a few surprisingly touching moments showing Kong’s bond with Jia. Kong is presented as an older, more weathered version of the character than we saw in Kong: Skull Island, and there are some dramatic closeups on his face that really make us sympathize with him.

While obviously playing out with cutting edge visual effects, Godzilla vs. Kong also has a sort of back to basics charm to it. It’s a fun movie that offers just enough in terms of story and characters to not just feel like two action figures fighting each other, while also understanding that, at a base level, this is the main appeal of the film. The result is a fast-paced monster movie that delivers what you want from something called Godzilla vs. Kong, and that is an entertaining spectacle built around two iconic characters. My only complaint is that I didn’t get to see it on the big screen, with theatres still closed in Ontario.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

Due to the pandemic, Godzilla vs. Kong was released day-and-date in select theatres and on demand in March, and is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital. The 4K set, which is the one I got for review, comes with a separate Blu-ray disc containing a number of featurettes divided into sections, along with a commentary track that appears on both discs. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which comes with a shiny cardboard slipcover.

Commentary by Adam Wingard (4K and Blu-ray)

The God: A pair of featurettes focusing on the character of Godzilla, including appearances from the cast and crew of Godzilla (2014) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Godzilla Attacks (6 minutes, 25 seconds) Wingard talks about his approach to making a Godzilla movie, as well as the fun chemistry between Bryan Tyree Henry, Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison, who are all highlights of the film’s human cast.

The Phenomenon of Gōjira, King of the Monsters (9 minutes, 52 seconds): A surprisingly substantial look at the history of Godzilla, including how the original Japanese film was much more serious than many remember, and a recap of the other films in the MonsterVerse.

The King: These four featurettes focus on the character of King Kong, including appearances from the cast and crew of Kong: Skull Island.

Kong Leaves Home (7 minutes, 56 seconds) Wingard talks about presenting an older, more weathered version of King Kong as opposed to how he was presented in Kong: Skull Island. Also looks at the casting of young Deaf actress Kaylee Hottle.

Kong Discovers Hollow Earth (7 minutes, 53 seconds) Looks at the impressive visual design of Hollow Earth, including its unique landscape, inverted gravity, and different creatures.

Behold Kong’s Temple (5 minutes, 52 seconds) Looks at the design of Kong’s temple, and how they made him into a sympathetic character.

The Evolution of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World (8 minutes, 25 seconds) Looks at the evolution of the character, from the 1933 original, to Kong: Skull Island and this film.

The Rise of Mechagodzilla (7 minutes, 6 seconds) A look at the history of Mechagodzilla and his evolution in this film.

The Battles: A trio of featurettes focusing on the three big battles in the film between Godzilla and King Kong, from pre-vis to final visual effects.

Round One: Battle at Sea (5 minutes, 1 second)

Round Two: One Will Fall (5 minutes, 58 seconds)

Titan Tag Team: The God and the King (7 minutes, 59 seconds)

Godzilla vs. Kong is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 113 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: June 15th, 2021

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