Godzilla vs. Kong. The title alone lets you know what to expect – and, thankfully, it makes good on its promise. Want big monster action? You got it.
Making his first big-budget studio pic, You’re Next, The Guest and Blair Witch (2016) director Adam Wingard confidently enters the blockbuster realm with a brash, loud and highly entertaining adventure in the cinematic MonsterVerse that kicked off with 2014’s Godzilla and was followed by 2017’s Kong: Skull Island (which I’d say competes with this film in the enjoyment department) and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
The plot, at its most simplistic level in order to avoid any spoilers, basically finds Godzilla on a mission to take down Kong. The giant lizard and ape are poised for a number of all-out brawls, while we follow groups of puny humans in a plot involving a conspiracy with tech corporation Apex Cybernetics and the search for a new power source.
Among the newcomers: Rebecca Hall, Alexander SkarsgÃ¥rd, Eiza GonzÃ¡lez, Brian Tyree Henry, Julian Dennison, Shun Oguri, DemiÃ¡n Bichir and Kaylee Hottle, the latter a young deaf actress whose highly expressive performance helps provide the film with its handful of much-needed emotional beats. Returning players include Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler, who, after his big role in King of the Monsters, is almost laughably insignificant here.
Without giving away the trajectory these characters follow, it’s clear that we have a few too many to deal with in what is quite the simple narrative. The journey Brown, Henry and Dennison’s characters embark on, for the most part, doesn’t really add much to it all apart from some dry humour and random bits of exposition. Plot-wise, Hall, SkarsgÃ¥rd and Hottle have the primary strand among the humans, although, really, everyone here is ultimately just a pawn to be placed – no matter how zany the plot turn – around the titular kings.
So, yeah, the human characters are left sorely wanting and the nutty ways they get from A to B are best not scrutinised. These issues certainly don’t help the overall ride, but they also don’t affect the movie too negatively; we all know why we’re here! Unlike, say, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which had Batman actually versing Superman for around 7 minutes or so, Godzilla vs. Kong wants to give audiences their money’s worth when it comes to a title fight.
Kong, now seriously massive, and Godzilla, all fury and intent on being top dog, go at it in hugely entertaining scenes of combat. People, planes, ships, buildings – all collateral damage in well-crafted sequences that have these astonishingly big titans landing increasingly brutal hits. It doesn’t take too long to get to the huge first showdown, and the script’s structure ensures there’s enough action before the next showdown to keep us firmly entertained. By the time that colossal finale comes along, fans of either creature will feel like pumping a fist in the air.
Screenwriters Max Borenstein (writer of Godzilla, co-writer of Kong: Skull Island, and with a Story By credit on King of the Monsters) and Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnarok) do well to keep things moving along nicely while throwing in stupefyingly bonkers plot developments that make the first few films seem almost grounded in comparison. Kudos, then, that the craziness is dealt with in both confident and self-aware fashion. You’ll throw your hands in the air with a “What?!”… but you’ll have a big smile on your face as you do so.
The CG mastery on display is undeniable. Both Godzilla and Kong are more emotive than they have been previously, their expressiveness stopping just before they actually speak. The VFX creations are wonderful and, importantly, convincing. There’s also the fact that, unlike this universe’s previous Godzilla-led films, a good amount of the mayhem does not unfold in the cover of darkness; we can see these two duking it out in all their glory. The world creation (you’ll know when you see it) also provides plenty of eye candy, pushing the fantastical leanings while holding on, if barely, to some kind of internal logic.
Despite the shortcomings when it comes to character, some of that dialogue, and how these people are manoeuvred through the plot, Godzilla vs. Kong manages to nevertheless be a kick-ass monster flick. The action reaches appropriately jaw-dropping levels of insanity and the technical wonders (VFX, sound design, etc) are fine-tuned for maximum impact. See this one on the big screen – or on the biggest screen and best sound system you have access to during this time.
‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ opened in Australian cinemas on March 25th and hit US cinemas & HBO Max simultaneously on March 31st.