by @holocronGeorge for @FilmCodex
If you watch Godzilla vs. Kong to see (as the title suggests) Godzilla fight Kong in a movie full of unhinged destruction and mayhem, you’re likely to enjoy the newest installment in the Monsterverse. Buildings are destroyed, punches are thrown, Titans butt heads, plots don’t really matter, and human characters don’t do much in a film that, at best, looks stunning and feels epic, yet, a worst, is a dull and semi-interesting crossover event.
The Monsterverse has been met with mixed reception after its three initial films. Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla was an unexpectedly nuanced film, gorgeously shot by Seamus McGarvey, but disappointed some for its titular character’s lack of screentime. Godzilla: King of Monsters addressed this criticism by pitting Godzilla against King Ghidorah, Rodan, and more. Unfortunately, the gorgeous looking film was marred by messy plotting and disposable human characters. Kong: Skull Island marks this burgeoning cinematic universe’s high-point so far as Jordan Vogt-Roberts delivered a lavish project that was the perfection, uncanny intersection of a monster flick and Vietnam War film. So, needless to say, the Monsterverse has been a mixed bag so far and, for better or worse, that pattern continues.
Godzilla vs. Kong sees Godzilla unexpectedly wreaking havoc on the world and Apex Cybernetics assembling a team, including Kong, to combat this threat by traveling to Hollow Earth. The vast majority of film is split in two halves, as we follow the team of scientists carrying out the mission (Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall) and, on a separate mission, Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison join forces with a friend and a conspiracy theorist to investigate Apex’s duplicitous plans. It’s a shame that, ultimately, the human characters in this universe continue to be a weakness. No one is particularly charismatic or likable or interesting, with Kaylee Hottle’s Jia being a rare highlight. Now, I know no one goes into a film called Godzilla vs. Kong to be consumed by the human characters’ arcs. That being said, Adam Wingard’s film spends an excessive amount of time with these characters in many scenes that mindlessly drone on as we eagerly await the next battle between Titans.
And it’s the battles between Titans where Godzilla vs. Kong really excels. Adam Wingard expertly handles these action sequences, making them the best of the Monsterverse so far. The lighting of a Hong Kong city or ships on the ocean are stunning. Unique camera decisions, like placing the audience’s view on the side of a Titan’s arm as he throws a punch, add an epic, visceral feel to the film. And epic is a perfect way to describe these fights. They are grand, loud, and high-stakes, so much so it makes it difficult to watch without a massive smile on your face. As I said, if you want Godzilla vs. Kong, you will not be disappointed.
Without delving into spoiler territory, Godzilla vs. Kong makes several intelligent narrative decisions that really further the film. The battle between Godzilla and Kong doesn’t seem thrown together, but, rather, each Titan’s place in the story is meaningful and understandable. Although the film struggles with some of the convoluted world-building it attempts, the final conflict is brilliantly crafted and helps take your mind off some of the dull moments and characters in the film.
Godzilla vs. Kong more than lives up to its title with fantastic action sequences brilliantly crafted by director Adam Wingard. Although the film is hampered by dull human characters and convoluted attempts at world-building, the fourth installment in the Monsterverse is a thrill ride that won’t disappoint fans of these classic characters.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment and HBO Max