This is the big one, in all senses. Marvel superhero movies have already demonstrated the money-making power of using several films to lead in to one big smash up spectacular, and ever since 2014’s Godzilla reboot by Legendary Entertainment we have been leading up to this. It may not be on the big screen due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the effort taken to get here is certainly huge.
I have been following the ‘MonsterVerse’ series very happily since the aforementioned Godzilla. As a movie reviewer, I tend to bang on about things like ‘character development’, ‘symbolism’, or ‘complicated weaving narratives’. Regardless, there is always a place for a movie that casts aside all that and jams the screen with the kind of action that makes your brain go, ‘cor, blimey!’ Godzilla vs Kong most certainly fits into that description.
Notwithstanding what I just said, these movies do need plot and character because without them even the biggest spectacle would get oversaturated to the point of tedium. The three preceding movies have been inconsistent but, for the most part, contained enough to build up the big monster fights. Kong: Skull Island was a high point with its Viet Nam war aesthetics and genuinely interesting characters. Godzilla: King of the Monsters had enough eco-terrorism to keep things chugging along.
Unfortunately, Godzilla vs Kong has lost steam and fails to give its cast anything to do, with characters reduced to info-dumping cardboard cutouts. Millie Bobby Brown returns but brings attitude without substance, and Kyle Chandler is in pure Dad mode without any of the (admittedly flimsy) transferrable animal behaviour knowledge that previously justified his inclusion. New additions pass by as either plot lynchpins (Hollow Earth theorist, Alexander Skarsgård) or passable comic relief (Brian Tree Henry as your standard swivel-eyed conspiracy theorist). Frequently you’ll lose track of why and where we are where we are, but the gaps are filled in enough that the movie doesn’t drag at least.
You are here for the monster battles though, aren’t you? Godzilla vs Kong delivers plenty of massive-scale simian scraps and nuclear blast battles. After an apparently unprovoked attack by Godzilla on an Apex Cybernetics facility, Kong is transported away from Skull Island by the human cast to locate a hazy ‘power source’ thing deemed to be in the centre of the Hollow Earth. However, Godzilla and Kong are apparently ancient rivals, and the movie is built around two huge battles between the pair: one at sea and one in the middle of some very unlucky skyscrapers.
Director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest, Death Note) delivers big on the scale. You can feel both major battles shudder with bass thumps and technicolour kerpows even on your small home screen. Kong in particular is animated to be an emotive loadstone of the movie. His historical tenderness with children returns; he has equal moments of softness and brutality. With more expressions to play with it certainly gives the movie some much needed emotional heft to see Kong’s feelings of fury, fear, and concern flash across his face during the battles. As for Godzilla? Well, he’s King of the Monsters, obviously!
Godzilla vs Kong is definitely the most – ridiculous – of the movies. Come the final battle there is plenty of wonderful kaiju destruction as both Kong and Godzilla are flung bodily into high-rise buildings, and the movie keeps one more utterly daft ace in the sleeve to take things up to 11 for the climax. Once you are in the final 20 minutes, it’s all juicy bash smash crash, which is what we are here for.
Overall Godzilla vs Kong is the weaker film compared to the two that came before it because those films at least managed to feature enough human character beats to make it seem like a shared world, where the awakening of ancient Titans had some kind of repercussion for life as we know it. Godzilla vs Kong jettisons that and focuses purely on just moving things along to get these two icons of the big screen at each other’s throats for the first time in a movie since 1963. It delivers what Pacific Rim and many others failed to do: a city-sized battle arena clash of titans where you can throw popcorn at the screen in delight as things get more and more gloriously stupid. Enjoy!
Words by Mike Record