TL;DR – A bombastic visual spectacle that explodes on the screen and never lets up.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene.
Disclosure – I was invited to a Press Screening of this film.
Godzilla vs. Kong Review –
There have been several attempts to create Cinematic Universes across modern cinema, but most of them have fallen flat. However, one of the few rays of light in this space has been the visual delight that has been the MonsterVerse. It has been bombast on the big screen, as giant monsters battle each other for supremacy as we watch on. Today, we look at the next film in that franchise that pits our two heroes from the previous movies against each other.
So to set the scene, it has been several years since Godzilla became the alpha at the end of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. In that time, Godzilla has kept the other titans in their home areas, much to the joy of the humans living in the world. However, one day, Godzilla surges out of the water near Pensacola, Florida. The titan makes a beeline for the Apex factory tearing apart everything in its way. In the factory, a whistleblower Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), is trying to find what Apex is up to because they are up to something shady. Meanwhile, on Skull Island, King Kong is taking his daily walk when he comes across a little girl, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), in the forest. However, as they bond, Kong feels a threat coming and sharpens a tree javelin, ready to take it down.
Overall the production values of the film were outstanding. One of the highlights for me was the musical score that was not content to sit in the background but announces its presence with a blast of brass and does not let up from there. These films have always excelled in the visual sceptical, and on that front, Godzilla vs Kong is no exception. Both Kong and Godzilla are rendered in incredible detail down two the realistic fur across Kong’s body, then add in weather effects, and you have some simply stunning moments. You need those details because you have to bond with titanic monsters that can carve up a city like they were going for a stroll in the park. While we don’t see the same breadth of monsters as we did in the last few films, the ones we do get to see are all beautifully realised. These visual effects also extend to the worlds that they create, verdant jungles as far as the eye can see, lava riddled outcroppings, and deep oceans.
Even if these titans are almost alien beings. There is nearly a gracefulness to the movement when you see them in their element. This leads to the core visual contrast between the two titans, something you need when they clash together. An excellent example of this happens at the start of the film, and as it is featured heavily in the trailers, I think we can talk about it here. In the scene, Kong is being taken to a location by the sea, and, well, the sea is Godzilla’s home turf. You have Kong trying to fight by jumping between the only things he has, the naval fleet, and Godzilla slinking around like a crocodile ready for the attack. All the while, the humans are trying to help/hinder, but they are buzzing flies for all the good they can do in reality. Watching the two titans astride of an aircraft carrier is one of those moments that will stick in your brain for a while to come.
From a narrative perspective, the general framing around the world makes sense, if a little predictable. The film’s main thrust is that MONARCH has been hiding Kong because they feared that Godzilla would kill him. After all, Godzilla needs to be the alpha and Kong bows for no one. We have a corporation that is just doing corporation stuff and is not in any way evil even though you could have stuck a “we are the bad guys” label on the side of their headquarters, and that still would have been less subtle. That corporation wants to find some element that powers the titans under the guise of stopping Godzilla, and they need another titan (Kong) to help them do it. As a narrative device to have kept them separate and to guarantee that they will meet, well, it is a straight forward one, but it works. However, it does mean bar one moment in the third act, nothing comes as a surprise in the film.
One of the weakest elements in this franchise has always been the human component, and unfortunately, that is the same here. The first act has a lot of set up, and because of that, most of the cast’s job is to spot exposition at each other to get the plot moving. While this was frustrating at first, it reaches a point where we get most of the cast divided into groups. The first is Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) going off to Florida to find Bernie. On the other side is Dr Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), Jia, her mother, Dr Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), and Maia Simmons (Eiza González), who are escorting Kong. Once they are in the groups, the film’s narrative starts to jell a lot better, and some (though not all) of those starting annoyances lesson.
Many of the characters suffer from being bland, Lind does get a sort of arc, but if he had disappeared at some point in the film, I doubt he’d be missed. Maia just spends the whole film posturing and is one of several characters that you leave wondering, what was the point of it? As well this, having one of our main hero characters being a conspiracy nut that quote “corrupts the mid” of a young teenager might have been a fun quirk back when the script was written. Now in 2021, it just feels a whole lot of yikes. Then you have the characters that are almost blink and you’ll miss them like Lance Reddick & Kyle Chandler. One of the rays of light in the film was Kaylee Hottle as Jia. It takes a lot to steal a scene when your scene partner is a giant ape, but Kaylee did it. Thankfully, like the previous films, this one does not live or dies on the humans in it.
While I generally enjoyed the film, as I walked out of the cinema, there were a couple of things that made me pause. The first is some of the clunky dialogue, like how the extermination of an entire race of people get hand waved away in a single sentence, or how the film continues to use outdated place locations like Ayres Rock. The one thing that did surprise me was that the third act battle didn’t quite wholly work. I don’t know what it was, but something about the set up as they fought among the screams of those around them rang hollow for me. Also, for those who have watched these films before, you will be disappointed with the end credits and what that potentially means for the future. None of these were enough to sink the movie like what Godzilla did to that flotilla, but they did leave me pondering.
In the end, do we recommend Godzilla vs. Kong? Yes, yes, we do. However, I should say that I got to see this film in a cinema where you could see the fight explode around you while the score shook your seat. I do not know how this film will translate to the TV or a mobile phone. It is not a perfect film, but it is a film that understands why people want to see it, and if you’re going to see titans duking it out in mortal combat, well, this is the film for you. If you liked Godzilla vs. Kong, we would also recommend to you Pacific Rim.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Godzilla vs. Kong
Directed by – Adam Wingard
Story by – Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields
Screenplay by – Eric Pearson & Max Borenstein
Based on – Godzilla by Toho & King Kong by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper
Music by – Tom Holkenborg
Cinematography by – Ben Seresin
Edited by – Josh Schaeffer
Production/Distribution Companies – Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros Pictures & Universal Pictures.
Starring – Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Kaylee Hottle, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Demián Bichir, Zhang Ziyi, Lance Reddick, Jessica Henwick, Hakeem Kae-Kazim & Kyle Chandler
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13