Contains major spoilers for Godzilla vs. Kong

When Warner Bros. unleashed Godzilla back in 2014, it seemed inevitable that he’d face off with other famous Titans from throughout the MonsterVerse in future movies. After he was proclaimed "King of the Monsters" in the 2019 Godzilla sequel, the Kaiju was set to face his biggest foe yet: King Kong, last seen on the silver screen in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. Finally, the film that documents the highly anticipated beatdown between Godzilla and King Kong has arrived in theaters and on HBO Max.

So far, Godzilla vs. Kong has been met with a predominantly positive response, holding an 80 percent critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, while many critics have praised the film for the huge spectacle that it is, others pointed out that the blockbuster lacks substance. In its defense, Godzilla vs. Kong was never going to be a heartfelt character study or have some kind of thought-provoking social commentary weaved throughout the giant grudge match. That being said, it’s still not immune from less-than-great writing and an over-reliance on science-fiction jargon. Let’s wade into the best and worst scenes in Godzilla vs. Kong.

Best: Kong speaks

Don’t worry – King Kong doesn’t recite Shakespeare or start bad-mouthing Godzilla in the middle of their battle. But he has learnt to communicate in a very basic way in Godzilla vs. Kong. He’s vowed to protect a young, deaf girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a survivor of the Iwi tribe on Skull Island, and has forged a connection with her. Jia converses with Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) through American Sign Language, and in a surprisingly serene moment in a storm, it’s revealed that Kong has picked up ASL from Jia.

On the way to Antarctica, Kong signs to Jia on the boat that he wants to go home; clearly, he’s not happy about being chained to the deck of a cargo ship. It’s a quiet moment before the bombastic action really kicks in, and it gives the audience a brief, tender insight into the connection between man and monster. It’s arguably the film’s only moment of genuine depth, but it works a treat.

Worst: Madison and Josh look for Bernie, the conspiracy theorist

Ah, Madison Russell — you caused some havoc back in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, didn’t you? When Godzilla vs. Kong picks up, Millie Bobby Brown‘s plucky Titan enthusiast is away from all the Monarch madness (though that doesn’t last long) and attends school with her dorky friend Josh (Julian Dennison). Madison refuses to believe that Godzilla is out to hurt humanity, choosing to track down a paranoid podcaster named Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) for insight.

After picking up a few clues on Bernie’s whereabouts and learning that he showers with bleach (which is undeniably alarming), Madison and Josh rock up at a convenience store that Bernie supposedly frequents and try to bribe the clerk for information on the conspiracy theorist. The entire exchange between the three is pretty painful to watch, as the movie attempts to inject a dose of humor into the story. It’s cringeworthy – especially when Josh slaps money down onto the desk — and just feels out of place. Sure, Madison, Josh, and Bernie’s story winds up leading to a not-so-shocking third-act reveal, but the trio are an example of the rather weak writing behind most of the human characters in the film, and this scene demonstrates that.

Best: The sea fight

One of the biggest battles in Godzilla vs. Kong is during Kong’s journey to Antarctica, when Godzilla tracks him down while he’s chained to the deck of the cargo ship. The nuclear-powered behemoth quickly decimates most of the fleet (no doubt killing countless crew members and soldiers), gives Kong a beating, and even capsizes the ship in the process. With all the carnage taking place in the open ocean, it’s impossible not to feel just how vulnerable Kong and the human characters are at this point.

Once the playing-field is leveled a bit, the punch-up really gets going and Kong gives Godzilla one hell of a beating. It’s the duo’s first confrontation and sets up their conflict for the rest of the film. This scene also demonstrates how director Adam Wingard got quite inventive with some of the supporting cast in how they fight to stay alive on the remaining ship while two Titans battle it out above and below them. Plus, it’s an incredibly cool scene to watch — but you knew that already.

Worst: Sneaking around Apex Cybernetics

Madison, Bernie, and Josh’s sub-plot gets even more yawn-worthy when the trio start sneaking around the ruined Apex Cybernetics lab that Godzilla attacks at the beginning of the story. Maybe we’re thinking too practically, but they manage to make their way into a secret, sprawling underground sector of the building without being spotted. They’re not exactly a stealthy group either — if anything, they’re quite hapless. Although the narrative is that they’re trying to uncover the shady research that Apex is conducting, Madison, Josh, and Bernie spend most of the time running between corridors while Bernie constantly talks about his weird habits and obsessions.

A movie called Godzilla vs. Kong shouldn’t dedicate so much time to a sub-plot for human characters — that’s not really what the audience has signed up to see. And though there’s something to be said about the lengths that the creative team went to to add emotional stakes that lead into the final, final battle, this scene slows dow the film’s pace. It’s especially disappointing because Brian Tyree Henry is excellent in Atlanta and If Beale Street Could Talk, Julian Dennison is excellent in Deadpool and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Milly Bobby Brown is excellent in Stranger Things and Enola Holmes, and their talents feel underutilized here.

Best: The Tokyo fight

When it’s finally time for Godzilla and Kong’s rematch following their first round of fisticuffs, Tokyo is the chosen battleground, since Godzilla shows up to the Japanese city looking to destroy something developed by Apex Cybernetics. Once Kong makes his way up from the Hollow Earth armed with a powerful new axe, their fight gets brutal. Neither of them hold back: Kong hacks into Godzilla using the dorsal fin axe, and the nuclear beast throws the protector of Skull Island through a number of skyscrapers.

If you have issues with the overuse of CGI in the third act of blockbuster movies, then Godzilla vs. Kong might not be the film for you, but it’s hard to deny that the film’s Tokyo fight scene looks absolutely stunning. It’s drenched in an array of neon lights from all the buildings, making the various explosions and Godzilla’s glowing eyes and atomic breath look that much cooler.

The sequence only gets more interesting when the long-rumored Mechagodzilla shows up and devastates the duo. While the fight has a pretty predictable ending, it’s still a ton of fun to watch three behemoths fight it out like they’re the stars of the world’s biggest beat ’em up video game. Now, excuse us while we go dig out our copy of Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters on GameCube.

Worst: The twist that isn’t shocking

When Godzilla and Kong’s fight reaches a violent crescendo, Apex Cybernetics CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) unleashes Mechagodzilla in an attempt to ensure that humanity is the only dominant force on the planet. But it’s really hard to take Demián Bichir‘s character seriously when he’s the mustache-twirling villain stereotype personified. Simmons spends most of his screen time drinking whiskey and waxing lyrical about his creation and not caring about the natural order of the planet that’s supposed to be his biggest personal concern. His most cringe-worthy moment comes from a single line of dialogue, when he whispers about how "there can only be one alpha," talking about Mechagodzilla. It’s safe to say that doesn’t exactly go well for Simmons, and his own demise comes from the very thing he created.

In a last bid at shocking the audience, it’s revealed that Mechagodzilla runs off a very specific power source: the consciousness of King Ghidora from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It’s an unnecessary addition to the film that only raises more questions about the practicality of how technology works in this world — because it’s all getting very futuristic.

But then again, this is a movie about a nuclear-fire-breathing lizard and a massive monkey wielding an axe, so, why not? Godzilla vs. Kong may not be the kind of film to win any Oscars, but its energetic fights and the sheer scale of its action make it an entertaining watch.