Godzilla vs. Kong, 2021.
Directed by Adam Wingard.
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Lance Reddick, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, and Kaylee Hottle.
The case of Godzilla vs. Kong was heard in theaters a few months ago, and now the verdict has been rendered in this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release, which is accompanied by a Blu-ray disc and a digital code. The modern era of CGI-fests are perfect for 4K, and this movie shines here. You’ll also find a nice batch of featurettes running a little over an hour, along with a commentary track by director Adam Wingard.
I’ve never been a fan of the “Just turn off your brain and enjoy the movie” school of thought when it comes to big budget blockbusters. Plenty of major hits have had a core of humanity in them, something beyond the “Gee whiz flash bang” of the special effects.
That’s what I’ve had an issue with when watching these new Godzilla and King Kong movies: the characters have tended to mostly be one-dimensional people, many of them of the science-y type who say lots of pseudoscience-y things about this new era of Titans and so forth. And the interesting ones, such as Bryan Cranston’s character in the 2014 Godzilla reboot, don’t stick around very long, unfortunately. The others have tended to be interchangeable, in my view – sometimes I can’t remember who is new in the latest movie and who was around during the last one.
However, this year’s Godzilla vs. Kong had a chance to change that, especially with the storyline featuring Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), daughter of two Monarch scientists and a returning cast member from Godzilla: King of the Monsters; Apex Cybernetics technician and conspiracy theory podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry); and Madison’s friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison). Madison is a fan of Bernie’s podcast and takes off with Josh, who has supplied his brother’s van for a trip to figure out why Godzilla attacked an Apex facility in Florida. They connect with Bernie and the trio continue the investigation together.
Their story runs parallel to one with Dr. Ilene Andrews, a Kong expert who has adopted Jia, the last Iwi native from Kong’s home, Skull Island. Jia is deaf and has a bond with Kong, thanks to their shared use of sign language. Jia’s relationship with Kong and Ilene has the chance to lend some of that aforementioned humanity, but their storyline is full of lots of science-y stuff and running around to figure out the truth behind the theory that there’s a Hollow Earth where Titans like Kong and Godzilla once lived.
Ilene and others have been monitoring Kong in a giant dome on Skull Island, and the decision is made to move Kong elsewhere via ship. Of course, that sets up Godzilla to come hunting for him (not sure why any of the science-y people didn’t think of that), and the first of their three battles takes place at sea. There’s plenty of exposition during this early part of the film, helping set up more of this franchise’s mythology. I actually like the idea that if Warner Bros. is going to make a bunch of Kong and Godzilla films, they might as well create a shared universe for them to live in. This is better than in the distant past when the two franchises were just a bunch of random movies, including 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla.
However, I’m a bit tired of the science-y characters. It would have been more fun to focus on Madison’s crew and figure out a way to plug Jia into their group. The story, which has five screenwriters in the credits but had many more in the writers’ room, would have been more interesting if the focus had been on a group of outsiders trying to understand what was going on with the Titans, rather than cutting back to the science people who could explain it all for us anyway. As a result, the script feels like it ended up adhering to a formula, rather than something more unique that could have come out of such a large group of writers all pitching ideas.
All that said, yes, if you just want to have a fun time watching two monsters beat the crap out of each other, with a third joining the mix toward the end and shaking up the dynamics, then you can’t go wrong with Godzilla vs. Kong. The special effects for these kinds of movies just get better and better, and in the modern era, no one has to remaster a new movie to take advantage of 4K, which is nice. This 4K Ultra HD disc simply shines if you have a decent setup, and if you’ve invested in a high-quality home theater, you’ll have an experience that’s about as close to a movie theater as you can get in the year 2021.
This new release from Warner Bros. also includes a Blu-ray platter with the movie and a bunch of bonus features, along with a code for a digital copy. The 4K disc shares only one bonus feature with the Blu-ray, which is director Adam Wingard’s commentary. He clearly came prepared for this chat, with plenty of thoughts and production anecdotes to share. If you’re looking for something very technical, given the enormous amount of effects work involved, you won’t find that here, since he offers more of an overall discussion of the making of the film. However, he does touch on the digital and practical effects that were used, which is useful if you enjoy playing the “Was that CGI or practical?” game while watching a movie.
The rest of the bonus features are found on the Blu-ray disc and include thoughts from various members of the cast and crew, depending on the subject and who’s needed to discuss it. They are:
- The God: This is a pair of featurettes running about 16 minutes total and focusing on the Titan from Toho, Godzilla. This is a mix of old and new, with a look at where the character is today and how he has evolved since his first appearance in 1954.
- The King: Now we take a look at the Eighth Wonder of the World, King Kong, in four featurettes that total about 30 minutes. (Hmmm, did the producer of this release have a preference for one monster over another?) As with the Godzilla featurettes, this collection looks at the character today, including an examination of the complicated effects during the part of the film set in the Hollow Earth, as well as his various iterations going back to his 1933 debut.
- The Rise of Mecha-Godzilla (7 minutes): Hopefully the title of this featurette isn’t a spoiler. The last Godzilla film brought back a bunch of the kaiju from his past history, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that his mechanical cousin should make an appearance here too. This featurette looks at the character’s history from his debut in 1974 to today.
- The Battles: This is a final collection of featurettes running about 19 minutes and looking at the three main monster battles in the film, including, of course, the CGI work that was involved.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★