Godzilla vs. Kong
- Emma Simmonds
- 31 March 2021
The titular titans are the understandable stars of the show in this entertaining monster mash-up
Remember when movies were big and loud and didn't make much sense? Although the fallout from Covid-19 has focused our attention on smaller filmic visions of late, Godzilla vs. Kong brings multiplex-style escapism back with a bang as it lays on a series of gargantuan battles to be top of the food chain. Promisingly, it's helmed by Adam Wingard, the director of You're Next and The Guest – someone who knows how to craft an entertaining genre flick.
It's the fourth instalment in Legendary's MonsterVerse, following Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Someone always has to be the villain in such face-offs (look at the contrivances which saw Batman and Superman go head-to-head) and here it's Godzilla, whose unexplained and seemingly unprovoked attack on an Apex Cybernetics facility early on pitches him squarely against humanity. In order to best the beast, Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir hamming it up marvellously) hopes to harvest the lifeforce from Hollow Earth, an underground ecosystem thought to be the birthplace of the titans.
Simmons enlists the help of Alexander Skarsgård's 'sci-fi quack' Nathan, who proposes recruiting King Kong himself to guide them through the dangerous and unexplored terrain. Rebecca Hall's scientist Ilene and her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) are along for the ride; they've been observing Kong in a Skull Island containment dome and Jia, who's deaf and the only survivor of a tribe native to the island, can communicate with him through sign language. Millie Bobby Brown's Madison, and her dad played by Kyle Chandler, return from King of the Monsters. This time Brown is partnered by Hunt for the Wilderpeople's Julian Dennison, with Brian Tyree Henry's conspiracy theorist podcaster leading their quest for the truth.
Hurrying through the scene-setting, the film hurls us quickly into the thick of a jumbo feud. If the cast could hardly be more appealing, the sheer number of characters in play, constant location shifts and rush to get to the action means that the humans are sadly a bit of an afterthought. Wingard's wicked sense of humour is missed too; the screenplay from Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein has a few decent gags, a lot of heart and even more exposition, but is a little lacking in idiosyncrasy.
However, it's all about the territorial titans and, on that front, Wingard delivers with aplomb. The set-pieces are suitably huge and they're skilfully handled. A sea-based squabble is shot with real style, and allows for an appreciation of the effects; there's a beautifully captured journey to the centre of the Earth; and some rather gorgeous Hong Kong-set fisticuffs, flanked by neon skyscrapers. The realisation of Godzilla is great but it's the rendering of Kong that's a resounding triumph; he has bags of personality and pathos as he gets the hump against a variety of backdrops, and bonds touchingly with a little girl in the rain. It's a crying shame this won't be seen on UK cinema screens just yet, given the inevitable impact of the pair looming large over you. Instead, turn the lights off, whack the volume up on your telly, and get set for some colossal carnage.
Available to watch on premium video on demand from Thu 1 Apr.