In the blue corner, at a height of 394 feet, is the force of nature himself, Godzilla! In the red corner, at a height of 335 feet, is the one and only King, Kong! As all of humanity waits with baited breath, these two titans are set to throw down for the crown in the latest modern Monsterverse tale from screenwriters Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnarok) and Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island) and director Andrew Wingard (The Guest). Anticipation is the name of the game as audiences have been clamoring for Toho Co., Ltd.’s Godzilla and Universal’s King Kong to battle it out for the last 59 years. After a brief theatrical run and a 31-day stint streaming on HBO Max, the fight can now be brought home with the options of 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital. Whether you’re a modern monster fan or a classic one, the included bonus features will delight as they explore not just the making of this film, but all the ones which came before. Frankly, whether you’re betting on blue or red, we’re all winners here.
If you haven’t seen Godzilla vs. Kong yet and would like to get some sense of the film in a spoiler-free setting, I recommend checking out the initial theatrical/streaming review. Moving forward, there are likely to be spoilers.
Three years after Godzilla defeated King Ghidorah, Monarch Codename “Monster Zero,” Earth exists in relative peace. All of this changes when Godzilla seemingly attacks APEX Cybernetics’s Florida lab unprovoked, putting all of humanity on high alert and Monarch Deputy Director of Special Projects Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) on damage control. Concerned that something is triggering Godzilla, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) enlists friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) to track down titan podcaster and conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) who seems to have the answers she needs. Meanwhile, on Skull Island, Kong is living peacefully under the watchful care of Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) who, along with sole Skull Islander Jia (newcomer Kaylee Hottle), looks after Kong. However, that peace is threatened two-fold: a storm destroyed most of Skull Island, leaving Kong with too little room and Kong may be able to provide the key to stopping Godzilla by leading a group of scientists straight into the rumored Hollow Earth. As all the pieces on the global board move, the two titans are destined to collide. The only questions are: which one will be left standing and how much of humanity will remain.
From my myopic view of the world, the critical response to Godzilla Vs. Kong is that it was a boring CGI slog with dumber than normal human characters. I couldn’t disagree more. While the human characters are typically my least favorite part of any modern Godzilla-related movie, here, each one serves a very specific purpose that moves the narrative along for the audience where the titans cannot. In a way, the two human teams serve as a handshake for the entire picture, enabling the narrative to fill in gaps of information with relative ease. On Godzilla’s side, we’ve got Madison’s team of sleuths who inform the audience of just how big APEX Cybernetic’s plan is to take down Godzilla. This means we get a boots-on-the-ground look at how APEX is able to create the tech that enables Team Kong to even travel through the Hollow Earth. Before we even learn about MechaGodzilla, Team Godzilla discovers the Skullcrusher eggs that APEX is experimenting with, as well as the titan vs. tech testing areas. All of this enables the script to make leaps in logic smoothly, creating the foreboding sense that APEX is up to something truly dark before we even see the Ghidorah skull hooked up to computers. Similarly, if not for APEX’s tools, Team Kong wouldn’t have been able to travel to the Hollow Earth which (a) creates an opportunity to explore Kong’s narrative (which began in Kong: Skull Island (2017)) regarding the existence of more of his kind, (b) expands the mythos of the Monsterverse while also giving Kong a weapon that increases his odds against Godzilla, (c) marks the first known time humans have traveled to there, and (d) sets up potential future stories. Without this trip, made possible by the human characters, there would be no defeating MechaGodzilla as Godzilla would’ve likely killed Kong in their battle *which means* there would be no Kong to save Godzilla from meeting his end via a poetic use of atomic breathe. The writers seem to take great care in ensuring that, while not the focal point of the film, the human element was integral in moving the plot forward in a reasonable way. Sure, Kong was always going to lose to Godzilla, but the way he lost and what happens next required the human element to get the ending we receive. Most importantly, it required that Demián Bichir’s APEX CEO Walter Simmons and Eiza González’s Maia Simmons, Walter’s daughter, be instrumental in getting us there, so that they could be the responsible for so much destruction on Earth. Why does this matter? In the traditional titan films, humanity is ultimately the cause of all the chaos and pain. Dropping the atomic bomb created Godzilla in the 1954 original and humanity thought they knew best to remove a creature from its home in 1933’s King Kong. As Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) says in Godzilla (2014), “The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in our control and not the other way around.” By seeking to control nature, Simmons ended himself, his lineage, and took countless others with him.
As for the CG, I took no issue with it at all, finding that it built upon the previous stories without extending things too far. In fact, GvK succeeds by not being as migraine-inducing as the constantly-flashing King of the Monsters (2019) and making the fantastical elements a beauty to behold. The art direction gets explored in pieces through the various featurettes included on the home release, but there’s no question that the sets, world, and tech of the film were created to inspire a sense of awe and wonder. More than that, through the blending of practical sets with CG, even the obvious computer generated objects felt tangible and alive. One need only look at the titular titans in their new-to-us aged representations for a great example of this. Each crackle with their own energy, conveying intent and desire without an utterance of dialogue, even before Kong reveals he’s learned sign language. The production design is particularly inspiring when you overlay the futuristic, almost Tron-like design of APEX’s HEAV01 vehicles that Team Kong uses to travel into the Hollow Earth against the Hollow Earth itself. That dichotomy of nature vs. technology flows into everything that battles in GvK and, in the presentation in that scene, it feels truly in-sync, where the final battle would show how it’s not.
This seems like a great place to point out that the HDR makes an enormous difference when watching at home. For instance, while the entrance into Hollow Earth is already pretty fantastical, the HDR makes it downright wondrous. The screen is able to reach the perfect black before the light of the HEAV01’s entry pierces through with a variety of colors, creating a light trail that absolutely dazzles. For the photo-sensitive, this sequence may potentially hurt a little bit due to the series of flashes presented when the camera moves inside the HEAV01 to show how Jia, Dr. Andrews, and the rest are handling the transition in gravity. What’s most interesting about the HDR is apparent in the following moment when we’re shown Hollow Earth properly as Kong runs his way through it. By comparison, the HDR may seem darker than the regular high-def 1080p image, but that’s because it’s offering a more realistic image. Conversely, when Kong and Godzilla face off for the second time in nighttime Tokyo, the HDR actually makes things easier to follow as the enhanced colors from the buildings and reflecting off Godzilla create negative space we can use to track what’s happening, even when we can’t see details perfectly. But when you get close-ups of the titans, the details are breathtaking. As for the sound, the home release includes Dolby Atmos, which I’m not equip to test. That said, the Dolby Digital signal received through my 5.1 surround setup came through crystal clear and totally immersive. It made experiencing moments with the HEAV01 in both the Hollow Earth and Tokyo sequences feel like being on a rollercoaster.
Ok, ok – if you’ve made it this far, you’re likely already like me and quite enamored with the film. Either that or you really want to know what the deal is with the special features. Put simply, there is a good amount covering a great deal of content in a significant, yet not overlong amount of time. Be advised that the bonus features are only included on the 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and digital editions of the film. Sorry, DVD owners, it looks like bonus materials are only for HD and higher content. For the 4K UHD disc, the commentary track with Wingard is the sole bonus feature. To access the rest, you either need to switch to the Blu-ray disc or go digital. The code you receive is Movies Anywhere compatible so you’ve got a few streaming services to choose from once activated. Once accessible, the materials are broken into sections: “The God,” “The King,” “The Rise of MechaGodzilla,” and “The Battles.” Three of these are subheadings with materials inside, while “MechaGodzilla” is a singular featurette. What’s nice about each of these, though they do skew in favor of exploring more about Kong, is their holistic approach. These featurettes include information from past writers, directors, cast, and crew as they explore the subject matter. So while each featurette isn’t particularly long, there’s a wealth of information exploring the history of the characters themselves, some important historical context for the characters, as well as insight into the art, production, and costume design for GvK. By taking a holistic approach, audiences can better understand the choices that Wingard made in production. Even the ones that start with the idea “wouldn’t this be cool?”. And if the fights are your jelly to their peanut butter, the iTunes digital edition comes with a section specifically to jump in and out of the fight sequences.
I’m apologetically a fan of the two modern Kong Monsterverse stories. I find them engaging, exciting, and, often, surprisingly emotional, all because of how they present Kong himself. The fact that this time around we get to see Kong earn the moniker “King” via his visit to the Hollow Earth, as well as dish out a proper pounding to both Godzilla and MechaGodzilla, makes Godzilla vs. Kong satisfying all on its own. I may lean Team Kong, but I knew going into the film that there’s no way the writers could let Kong defeat a literal god-like creature. It just wasn’t going to happen. But what Wingard presents is a film in which I’m rooting for Kong the entire way, holding on to some strange belief that this time, on this new rewatch, Kong will somehow get the upper hand. That’s the kind of fun ride that Godzilla vs. Kong ultimately is. One which I’m glad I can take anytime I want now.
Godzilla vs. Kong Special Features
- Commentary by Director, Adam Wingard (only on 4K, Blu-ray, and digital) (1:53:26)
- The God
- Godzilla Attacks (6:25)
- The Phenomenon of GŌJIRA, King of the Monsters 9:51)
- The King
- Kong Leaves Home (7:55)
- Kong Discovers Hollow Earth (7:52)
- Behold Kong’s Temple (5:51)
- The Evolution of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World (8:25)
- The Rise of MechaGodzilla (7:06)
- The Battles
- Round One: Battle at Sea (5:00)
- Round Two: One Will Fall (5:57)
- Titan Tag Team: The God and the King (7:59)
iTunes Special Features
- Monster Moments
- King of the Monsters (2:27)
- Maritime Mayhem (6:20)
- Hong Kong Showdown, Part 1 (3:47)
- Hong Kong Showdown, Part 2 (2:31)
- Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (4:58)
- The Final Battle (2:47)
Available on digital May 21st, 2021.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD June 15th, 2021.
For more information, head to the official Godzilla Vs. Kong website.