Godzilla Vs. Kong


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Godzilla Vs. Kong
"As much of a mess as the aftermath of its set pieces." | Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Do they fight? Yes. Does anything else matter? Possibly not. At least, it seems that was the consensus behind the camera. Despite the promise of a titanic match-up and a battle for the ages this drags rather than grabs. Feeling at once like it doesn't need all of its 113 minutes and also like scenes were cut to bring down run-time it's as much of a mess as the aftermath of its set pieces.

As we've two monsters we've also at least two supporting casts of squishable humans. Kyle Chandler returns but his primary contributions are worried phone calls to Millie Bobby Brown and upping the dead wife count. Millie's Madison Russell co-opts her pal Josh Valentine and his big brother's van. Josh is Kiwi Julian Dennison, getting to use his own accent in what might be connected to Aotearoa/New Zealand production incentives, the van less easily explained. It's a battered storm-chasing vehicle, a notion that opens us to ideas like Pacific Rim's kaiju scavengers, but doesn't.

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It's one of many avenues that seem to promise more but not deliver. There are some good elements in their search for a mysterious podcaster, Brian Tyree Henry's Bernie Hayes. The fact that he's a whistleblower in a multinational bad guy corporation whose podcast does insufficient numbers to trouble their internal security apparatus might not be intentional, but it is funny. Less so some of the conspiracy nonsense which is differently weighted when Godzilla's about, and also for adding to that dead wife count. They're squishy allies of team Godzilla, or hope to be.

Then there's the squishy allies of team Kong. A multinational corporation looking for an energy source needs a guide, so Rebecca Hall's Ilene Andrews enlists the big ape potentate of Skull Island. Also along in a debut role is Kaylee Hottle, some credible sound design in a film where planes and automobiles do double duty as clubs conveys her deafness well. Her fluency in sign language becomes an important tool in communicating with Kong, though there are some concerning undertones of colonial exploitation.

There are human baddies, of course, though why one of them carries the Serizawa name is a mystery. A nod to the first Oxygen-Destroyer Doctor is found in one shot of the aircraft carrier set pieces featured in the trailers. There are nods to the rest of the Monsterverse too, though some of these have more flesh on their skeleton of ideas than others.

I won't go on about the continuing inability of aerial vehicles, piloted or unpiloted, to fail to leverage any real quantity of the three dimensions available to them to avoid the threat envelope of a grabby hand. That the F-35 costs somewhere around 80-some times as much after adjusting for inflation as an aircraft of a similar vintage to the Curtiss Falcons in King Kong (1933) is one thing. Ignoring 80 some years of tactical doctrine and having to 'punch out' because you've been punched is another.

Procurement price of the 1927 Curtiss F-7C Seahawk which shared several elements including manufacturer with the Curtis Falcon (under various designations) which got too close to Megaprimatus Kong in the battle of 20 W 34th St was $82,450, $1,246,293.35 after inflation. Flyaway costs of the F-35 Lightning II are a matter of some dispute, but even later blocks graze the $80m level and at $36,000 per flight hour it would only be slightly more expensive minute by minute to have 1,753,169 HBO Max subscriptions...

Which brings us to cost. Don't, if you're going to watch this, watch it alone. Amortise that streaming charge my some means, because this isn't worth it. Seeing it on a big TV is one thing, a big screen might make it worthwhile but features of the set-pieces mean that cinema screenings might be difficult. The splashy boat bout exposes the difficulties CG still has with water. The neon-lit battle in what's allegedly Hong Kong is a fluorescent free-for-fall. I am pretty confident that there's not a giant pyramid on a hill overlooking Kowloon Bay but this is a movie that explores the theory of the Hollow Earth so usual geographic rules need not apply.

That Antarctic expedition includes not only exposition but exploration. Sequences in the underworld include a number of things that raise questions about Kong and Godzilla's place in the monsterverse. These are hampered though by the magical antigravity vehicles that are used to get there, whirling lightshows that appear to be stroboscopters. There are bits that look like Tron, bits that look like Pacific Rim, bits that look like they thought about adding 3-D. Bits that seem to have been cut out, bits that drag, bits that are predictable.

I'll make an effort to avoid spoilers, but as with any 'versus' title the conclusion is almost inevitably mechanical. In servicing a commercial juggernaut like this, the five credited screenwriters clearly had not the bravery to break too far away. The only one without a previous monster to their credits (and I'm including the Tuunbaq from The Terror) is Eric Pearson, who headed the long list of writer credits on Thor: Ragnarok. Adam WIngard directs, and while he has a number of horror movies to his name there's a lot of outposts in anthology or franchise features. There's nothing here that stands out massively, ironic given that there's at least two eponymous entities that do just that.

I mention franchise responsibilities as well because there's not a scene after the credits. There might have been room, and there's certainly enough bits and bobs to suggest that Monarch have new opportunities here. There are new creatures, new powers, characters whose sole reason for returning seems to be continuity and a suggestion of ongoing guardianship of otherwise capable minors. What there isn't, sadly, is much point to it all. It's perhaps less two bald men fighting over a comb than two kaiju bending over for the same coin. They bump heads, true, but this tale isn't worth the effort.

Reviewed on: 05 Apr 2021
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Two mighty monsters slug it out.
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Director: Adam Wingard

Writer: Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Chris Chalk

Year: 2021

Runtime: 133 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: USA, Australia, Canada, India


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