You can forgive me for going into Godzilla vs Kong with a wee bit of trepidation. You see, the last time Alexander Skarsgård had top billing in a blockbuster, it was The Legend of Tarzan, and before that it was Battleship – you see where I’m going with this? And that’s not a slight on Skarsgård at all, he’s a great actor, but just hasn’t found the success he deserves when it comes to tentpole movies.
And then there’s the MonsterVerse itself. Things started off exceptionally in 2014 when director Gareth Edwards (Rogue One) created a beautifully shot and rather understated Godzilla reboot. Then in 2017, Kong: Skull Island entered the fray in what has to be one of the most bonkers and visually stunning blockbusters of the last 5 years.
Unfortunately, all this good work was undone somewhat when Godzilla: King of the Monsters was released in 2019. Messy, with a poor script, it threatened to derail the entire franchise. Nevertheless, Warner Bros. pushed on with creating Godzilla vs Kong and after numerous pushbacks, it finally arrives in the UK on the small screen – but is it actually any good?
Kong and his protectors undertake a perilous journey to find his true home. Along for the ride is Jia (Kaylee Hottle), an orphaned girl who has a unique and powerful bond with the mighty beast. However, they soon find themselves in the path of an enraged Godzilla as he cuts a swath of destruction across the globe. The initial confrontation between the two titans is only the beginning of the mystery that lies deep within the core of the planet.
First thing’s first, having Adam Wingard at the helm is such an incredible success story for the rise of the indie director. His roots are very much in horror, directing You’re Next and the 2016 Blair Witch, so alongside his MonsterVerse directing buddies, it’s great to see new, upcoming directors bringing their own sense of style to these mammoth projects – and bring a sense of style he does, and then some.
As was the case in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the human characters really make little to no impact on the plot whatsoever. They’re conveniently placed across the runtime to narrate the battles between these two Titains, a criticism levelled at pretty much all the films in the series, but here it is slightly more palatable than the overly forced humour and nonsensical dialogue that we saw in its predecessor.
The cast is split into different factions that never meet (one supporting Kong and the other Zilla), and this scripting choice does make the constant toing-and-froing between the two different plot points a little tiresome, and each of the characters is as thinly written as you would expect in a film of this nature, but it would be unfair to level too much criticism in this area because that’s not what you watch these movies for.
The detail and different colours in Kong’s beard shows a love for the film and its main characters (of the Titan kind)
Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler are probably the most wasted of the cast, brought back to ensure some continuity between Godzilla vs Kong and its predecessor, but the script could have dispensed with them entirely and you wouldn’t miss them. Rebecca Hall and Shun Oguri are newcomers that are intended to take over duties from Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe and they’re fine.
What is right to criticise however is the editing. It feels like a lot will have been left on the cutting room floor. The film hops from scene to scene in a messy fashion that is particularly jarring in the first hour. It wouldn’t surprise me if Warner Bros. asked to speed up the first 30 minutes of the film to get to the initial confrontation between the two behemoths quicker. Unfortunately, for me, this does the first act more harm than good.
But once these guys do meet, boy does the film get going. The CGI used to create both Titans is absolutely incredible, with the effects used to create Kong in particular being exceptional. There are a number of battle scenes dotted across the film’s two-hour runtime and each one becomes more ridiculous than the last – in a good way. A highlight includes a neon backdrop of Hong Kong that feels very video game-esque. It’s hard not to feel for the poor residents of HK, trying to sleep through all the destruction.
The camerawork too in these sequences is top notch. No shaky cam, just incredibly clear battles that are a world away from the messy confrontations we saw in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Overall, Godzilla vs Kong is a film that needs to be seen on a screen as huge as possible, so watching it in my front room is never going to do it the justice it deserves. What I can tell you is that while the human characters are flatter than if Godzilla had stepped on them, the stunning cinematography (a positive of all MonsterVerse films to date) and exquisitely choreographed fights more than make up for this. If you like your blockbusters loud and proud – this is the one for you.