Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong

DIRECTED BY

Adam Wingard

STARRING

Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Kaylee Hottle, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Lance Reddick and Demián Bichir

SYNOPSIS

The epic next chapter in the cinematic Monsterverse pits two of the greatest icons in motion picture history against one another – the fearsome Godzilla and the mighty Kong – with humanity caught in the balance.

In a time when monsters walk the Earth, humanity’s fight for its future sets Godzilla and Kong on a collision course that will see the two most powerful forces of nature on the planet collide in a spectacular battle for the ages. As Monarch embarks on a perilous mission into uncharted terrain and unearths clues to the Titans’ origins, a human conspiracy threatens to wipe the creatures, both good and bad, from the face of the earth forever.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the latest instalment in the modern Monsterverse from Warner Bros., written by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, and directed by Adam Wingard. Set a few years after the events of Godzilla: Kings of the Monsters, the Titan that once appeared as a protector of humanity has now begun attacking cities and civilians, leading many to question just what has triggered Godzilla to become the enemy in the eyes of the world. Meanwhile Apex Cybernetics enlists the help of geologist Nathan Lind to locate a world believed to be where the Titans came from, in order to find the source of their power. This leads Nathan to enlist the help of Dr. Ilene Andrews to use another Titan, Kong, as a guide to help them locate the Titan home world, which leads the two Titans on a collision course that will pit the two against each other.

When it comes to the Monsterverse, the most common comments are repeated about these films: monster scenes are good, human characters are bad. What the film benefits from here is that Godzilla and Kong have actual character arcs here, as we follow breadcrumbs of information as to why Godzilla is acting the way he is throughout the course of the film, and Kong is a figure that garners our sympathy as he just wants to return home whilst he’s being dragged (literally) towards doing Lind and Apex’s bidding. The film knows exactly what the audience has come to see however and as you’ve build the franchise to this moment, to have these two Titans go one on one, thankfully the film doesn’t disappoint in that department as the fight sequences between the two of them are entertaining to watch. These sequences are shot incredibly well, with some interesting creative directorial choices from Wingard, as the two bout between a cargo ship and the neon-lit skyscraper surroundings of Hong Kong, with some angles shot as a POV. The fights also showcases the action in full, we’re far removed from the teases of Titan action in 2014’s Godzilla and are showcasing it all now, even in slow-motion. The visual effects are great too, particularly in how its used in this action sequences, as well as enhancing Godzilla and Kong personalities, such as their reactions to the end of their fights, fatigue etc. The score composed by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, I found to be good here too, particularly in one sequence there’s a synth like track during a certain moment and I couldn’t help but feel like it was a nod as Wingard’s previous films as they have that synth score in them. In terms of which Titan gets the majority of the screentime, it definitely feels tilted in favour of Kong, which is to be expected as we’ve only had one Kong film in this franchise, but it definitely doesn’t undervalue Godzilla either, so I think Wingard found the balance well.

There’s a certain story element that exists in this film that could either be a make or break point for certain viewers. I’m all for suspending disbelief when it comes to a film that has literal giant monsters in it, but when you compare it to the 2014 Godzilla film and how it tried to ground it as much as possible, and here it goes to sci-fi hi-tech and concept that it pushes that suspension of disbelief to the absolute limit, but the film moves at such a fast-pace, it dumps all this exposition on the audience so quickly in order to have us accept it and move on. Like the previous films in the franchise, there’s some human characters that I liked, some I didn’t. I thought the young deaf actress, Kaylee Hottle, done really well in her performance as Jai, the last surviving member of the native tribe on Skull Island that communicates with Kong using sign language. Whilst this humanises Kong to an extent, I don’t think that emotional angle works in execution here, maybe if we were given a brief introduction of how the two actually met might’ve helped better than a few lines of dialogue to inform the audience. Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler return to reprise their roles from King of the Monsters, with one given a more focused journey in the film while the other is benched to quite literally ‘phone it in’. Millie Bobby Brown spends the majority of the film with Julian Dennison as Madison’s best friend Josh, and Brian Tyree Henry as conspiracy theorist and podcaster Bernie Hayes and…I didn’t care for their side-plot here. Quite clearly Brian Tyree Henry has fun with the role, but their arc and rapport just felt uneven and it all reminded me of a certain side-plot in the third season of Stranger Things. Also upon reflection, that side-plot didn’t really need to exist and could’ve been used to further develop the plot surrounding the main figures of Apex Cybernetics, Shun Oguri’s Men Serizawa and Demián Bichir’s Walter Simmons, but while their motivations are made clear, we don’t care about them as we’re made to not care for them. Alexander Skarsgård and Rebecca Hall aren’t given much personalities to their characters as they serve as audience surrogates during Kong’s journey. God bless Lance Reddick, I was looking forward to seeing him appear as I seen his name in the credits and he appears for about five seconds with one line, making me wonder just how much material is on the cutting room floor.

VERDICT

While the overall plot is absurd, the film knows that the audience is really here for the Titan bout and it definitely excels in terms of how the fight sequences are directed and how visually striking they are.

★★★