Movie Review: Godzilla vs. Kong1st April 2021
How far we have come since the first encounter of man, ape and lizard. When Toho first outed these two beasts, they fought with all the grace and effort of bumbling, uncoordinated men in costumes. That is what they were. The dawn of computer graphics has left both Godzilla and King Kong with not just room to grow, but wider audiences to impress. Godzilla vs. Kong is the perfect antidote to the sluggish lack of charm provided by the previous instalments. Whether that is a general absence of quality found in the previous Godzilla outing, or the thickly layered, shoddy messaging of the most recent King Kong adaptation. Neither are strong, but at least they have tried.
Tremendous heavy lifting is presented here. Either missing a few steps in-between Godzilla: King of the Monsters and now, these producers are acknowledging that they have no clue what to do. They rip the best bits of Kong: Skull Island, which is primarily the soundtrack and ability to make the action look good, and roll with the punches from there. It is big-budget mayhem and a welcome release. Escapism at this high a profile is hard to come by, but Godzilla vs. Kong shines a light on its fight scenes and rides the rollercoaster such moments provide. But, as expected, they are few and far between. The danger is not immediate or consistent, and we still spend too much time with boring characters and amicable writing. There is still a lack of balance between spectacle and substance.
What Godzilla vs. Kong makes up for in fights and simplicity, it loses in subtext and interest. Both monsters are no longer the biting criticisms of the world they once were. They are now entities rather than ideas. Much of the time is spent with Millie Bobby Brown and newcomer to the series, Julian Dennison. Where Kong: Skull Island had two groups offering varyingly different styles and themes, Godzilla vs. Kong has two groups offering an identical story. They are to bring Kong in to stop Godzilla. That is obvious, as the title would vaguely suggest. But getting to the titular kaiju fight takes time and patience. Patience that, should these characters be any less interesting, would be strained and stretched. Its balance is loose and sometimes aimless, but we are guided towards an amicable end and a flurry of fights.
Many of the villains throughout are insubstantial and not brought about in any way that would suggest consistency. They are alluded to but never shown until it is too late. Audience members will not feel the build-up, for the appearance of MechaGodzilla is inevitable. The design is questionable, generic and finds itself paired with the equally forgettable human villain, Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir). He is boring and redundant, following the exact route all other villains or potential antagonists have followed. Each film in the series so far has been obsessed with man becoming the apex predator once more, and each time they have failed. Godzilla vs. Kong is the last straw. The Monsterverse must find new ground to tread, for the paths they have followed so frequently these past seven years are now running on fumes. But, at least Godzilla vs. Kong has some fun with it.
Learn by growing, that appears to be the aim of this piece from director Adam Wingard. Godzilla vs. Kong provides a sliver of hope for what seemed like a doomed universe project. Where Godzilla: King of the Monsters failed as a set-up, Godzilla vs. Kong collects itself and pushes forth. It depends on both old, reliable faces and new, exciting action. There is still a ways to go. The Monsterverse shall never fly as high as Shin Godzilla, but for the western audience, Godzilla has all the bells and whistles one could desire. Big action setpieces, a collection of ensemble characters all holding one trait each, and just enough of a story to keep them moving to the next inevitably glossy Titan bust-up.