Godzilla vs. Kong (4K UHD Review)
Release Date(s)2021 (June 15, 2021)
Studio(s)Legendary Pictures/Toho Studios (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B-
Five years have passed since the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Monarch has kept Kong contained under a massive holographic dome on Skull Island to avoid attracting Godzilla’s attention. Godzilla, meanwhile, has remained dormant… until he suddenly attacks a Pensacola, Florida factory owned by Apex Cybernetics for reasons unknown. Monarch’s deputy director (Kyle Chandler) quickly springs into action, organizing the disaster response even as he attempts to learn what triggered the Titan’s wrath. But his daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friend Josh (Julian Dennison) think the answer may lie with a former Apex technician turned Internet conspiracy monger (Brian Tyree Henry). Meanwhile, Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) recruits a former Monarch scientist (Alexander Skarsgård) for a mission to the hypothetical “Hollow Earth,” a hidden world deep underground that’s the Titans’ original home and the source of all their power. Simmons claims that power might help Apex to defend humanity from the Titans, so they convince Kong’s handlers (Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle) to see if the beast will lead them there. But the moment Kong leaves his enclosure, it’s only a matter of time before Godzilla finds him… and the two Titans battle for supremacy of the planet.
Let’s be honest right up front: Godzilla vs. Kong is very far from art, but it does at least offer its titular monsters slugging it out on the deck of an aircraft carrier at sea, which, if you’re a longtime kaiju fan, can’t help but give you a bit of a thrill. Still, it’s also fair to say that director Adam Wingard’s sequel is the least good of Legendary’s MonsterVerse films, and the reason for it has everything to do with style (or rather the lack thereof). While the previous installments each introduced fantastical elements, their stories were mostly grounded in a contemporary reality (or a 1970s reality in the case of Kong: Skull Island). In addition, Godzilla (2014) offered strikingly-Gothic (almost Lovecraftian) visuals, while King of the Monsters went even more apocalyptic. And while all three films fully embraced their outrageous plots, the filmmakers offered regular wink-and-nod moments to let the audience in on the conceit, even as they dropped tons of references to the classic films upon which they drew inspiration. But Wingard’s approach is a bit too everything-and-the-kitchen-sink, gleefully adding so many new and fantastical elements to the series’ mythology—Hollow Earth, Mechagodzilla, anti-gravity propulsion, subterranean Hyperloops from Florida to Hong Kong, space warps to the Earth’s core, etc—that style takes a back seat. What’s more, the onslaught of concepts and eye candy means the film’s ensemble cast has little chance to lend a bit of flair to the proceedings. And that’s a shame, because there are plenty of talented actors here. As you might guess, Godzilla and Kong are the most rounded characters in the film and they spend most of its running time beating the hell out of each other, so that’s not saying much.
The film sure looks good though. Godzilla vs. Kong was captured digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (at 3.4 and 6.5K) using Arri Alexa Mini and Arri Alexa 65 cameras (with a variety of Arri, Panavision, and Cooke lenses) and it was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For its release on Ultra HD, the film was graded for high dynamic range (HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision options are all available on this disc). The image quality is spectacular. Detail abounds in nearly every shot, save for those where extensive on-set or digital atmospherics have been used—fog, rain, smoke, and the like. Fine detailing is exquisite in brightly-lit scenes, particularly notable in skin texturing and background detail in the live action shots. Much of the VFX work (particularly that of MPC Film) was done in native 4K resolution, though a few shots do look as if they were done in 2K and upsampled. Nevertheless, many of these VFX shots reveal significant fine detail in fur, scales, and cityscapes, particularly as they’re being destroyed by the battling titans. The HDR grading is phenomenal, with deep blacks and brilliant highlights, the latter apparent in bold skies, Godzilla’s atomic breath, the neon lights of Hong Kong, and the electric blue of the HEAV vehicles’ anti-gravity engines. The overall color palette is lush, vibrant, and wonderfully nuanced, with accurate skin tones, and richly-saturated skies and jungle-scapes. This presentation is a demo-worthy 4K dazzler, and one that improves significantly upon the standard Blu-ray image.
Sonically, Warner’s 4K disc is just as good, weighing in as it does with a reference-grade English Dolby Atmos mix. The soundstage is broad across the front, with abundant atmospherics in the surrounds. The dynamics are massively muscular, just as you’d expect on a title like this, with extraordinarily deep bass, full-sounding mids, and crisp highs. Dialogue is clean and clear, movement is buttery smooth, and the height channels are almost constantly active with hemispheric fill and aggressive sound effects in set-pieces, Godzilla’s attack on the Kong flotilla at sea but one example. Like the image quality, the sound mixing here is demo-worthy. Additional audio options include English Descriptive Audio, English, French, Spanish, and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, and Italian Dolby Atmos, with optional subtitles available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Italian for the Deaf, Traditional Chinese, Cantonese, Korean, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
Warner’s 4K UHD disc includes only one special feature:
- Audio Commentary with Adam Wingard
But the package also includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray, a disc that also offers the commentary and adds the following:
- The God – Godzilla Attacks (HD – 6:25)
- The God – The Phenomenon of Gojira: King of the Monsters (HD – 9:52)
- The King – Kong Leaves Home (HD – 7:56)
- The King – Kong Discovers Hollow Earth (HD – 7:53)
- The King – Behold Kong’s Temple (HD – 5:52)
- The King – The Evolution of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World (HD – 8:25)
- The Rise of Mechagodzilla (HD – 7:06)
- Round One: Battle at Sea (HD – 5:01)
- Round Two: One Will Fall (HD – 5:58)
- Titan Tag Team: The God and the King (HD – 7:59)
Based on his commentary (and numerous appearances on camera in these extras), it’s hard to fault Wingard’s enthusiasm. It’s just a shame that his direction is so generic. As for the featurettes themselves, they are a tad EPK-ish, but they do still offer some substance and cover most of the topics you’d want examined. This film is hardly Citizen Kane, so it’s hard to imagine more extras making any real difference here. Of course, you also get a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert.
In the end, Godzilla vs. Kong is a modestly entertaining installment in Legendary’s MonsterVerse franchise, if also its most forgettable. Warner’s 4K Ultra HD release, on the other hand, is a straight-up dazzler, a disc that’s perfect for showing off your home theater’s every hardware bell and whistle. As such, it’s certainly recommended, if mostly for A/V fans only.
- Bill Hunt
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