In times of trouble, humanity needs hope. We need the likes of Kong and Godzilla, to ruin our cities and cause billions in collateral damage. Godzilla goes where he pleases, but Kong is historically transported against his will. Godzilla vs. Kong posits a question first asked in 1962, and recently twisted by Zack Snyder: what if two of the world’s greatest heroes came to blows? Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth entry in what has been termed the Monsterverse, and it is easily the dumbest yet, in the best possible way. You may protest “they should be friends!” but, as a great man once said, “let them fight”.
Three years after the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla has started attacking humanity again, while Titan containment group Monarch is attempting to reach Hollow Earth with Kong’s assistance. Both Titans being active in the world means that they’re due a clash, even as “the Kong Whisperer” Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall, Prime Video’s Tales From The Loop) tries to keep them apart.
More than any other Monsterverse film, Godzilla vs. Kong understands that the human element is irrelevant. It kind of has to be here, as the script by Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnarok) and Max Borenstein (What Is Life Worth) doesn’t really develop any of them. Legacy character Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler, The Midnight Sky) appears to have had most of his scenes cut, and his daughter Madison (Millie Bobbie Brown, Enola Holmes) has a bizarre trajectory as a Titan truther; between her and Hall they barely hold the terrestrial elements together.
So it’s up to Kong to step in as the film’s legitimate every man, much more relatable than Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s marine in Godzilla 2014. The teenage Kong of Kong: Skull Island has become a middle aged man, grizzled, lonely, and desperate to feel definitively at home. Horror director Adam Wingard (Death Note) understands that Kong is unambiguously our friend, causing collateral damage but largely only deliberately killing filthy capitalists. There’s a lot to recommend this giant ape to us, and if you fell in love with him in Skull Island there’s nothing here that’s going to break your heart. The greatest strength of Godzilla vs. Kong is that it trusts that a viewer is willing to go with Kong to the literal ends of the Earth.
The action sequences are kinetic and occur in all sorts of lighting and weather conditions; special effects have come far enough that Wingard does not feel the need to hide his creations in murk. When Godzilla and Kong finally come face to snout, the atmosphere is palpable. The sequence itself may be incredibly (even suspiciously) reminiscent of episode eight of Shin Godzilla director Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it is hard to deny that it is exactly what you came to Godzilla vs. Kong to see. Even after the initial punches stop, the hits keep coming. Godzilla vs. Kong is a meticulously designed film, with a new arena visited with effects quite unlike those seen in almost any other blockbuster. To see Kong jump is to see him soar, and the film unlocks a sense of wonder that is all too uncommon in modern blockbusters.
Of course the movie isn’t all Kong, as Godzilla technically gets star billing. In these movies, Godzilla has always been a shadowy figure, only barely within the realm of human comprehension. He’s a force of nature rather than an ape of desire, and he comes across as legitimately infuriated for much of the film. Despite the human narrative of the film frequently stumbling, every Titan action is completely coherent. You can intuit the short term goals of each Titan and, ultimately, their long games. The humans are needed to ground them, but once they’ve delivered their dialogue you can ignore homo sapiens in favour of the chaos on the cyberpunk styled streets of Hong Kong.
Godzilla vs. Kong is accurately summarised by its title. If you like giant monster movies, then you’ll get a lot out of it, but there’s nothing extra for those who need to be wooed over. With little human pathos but a lot of ape feeling, Godzilla vs. Kong is a fun romp with exciting (if occasionally cribbed) action sequences that delivers exactly what it promises.
Godzilla vs. Kong opened in Australian cinemas on March 25, 2021.
Directed by: Adam Wingard.
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri and Kyle Chandler.