Godzilla vs. Kong ranks alongside 2017’s Kong: Skull Island as one of the best entries in the expanding MonsterVerse.
The last time these two titans clashed was way back in 1962 in the Japanese production King Kong vs. Godzilla, albeit as a pair of actors in rubber suits stomping on a miniature Tokyo set. Cheesy charm notwithstanding, it’s a crude spectacle when compared to the digital wizardry on display in Godzilla vs. Kong, which invests both monsters – particularly Godzilla – with a lot more personality and nuance.
It also trims the expository fat and surplus of characters that bogged down previous MonsterVerse instalments, with much of the focus on Godzilla and Kong, just as it should be. And while the mighty ape gets most of the screen time, his reptilian nemesis isn’t short changed.
Godzilla vs. Kong is a title that pretty much doubles as a synopsis, but for the record, the film opens with Kong contained by Monarch on Skull Island for his own protection from Godzilla, who wants to revive their ancient rivalry. The Titans are all about keeping the world in balance, and since two alphas upset this balance, a fight to the death is inevitable.
Monarch geologist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) is determined to explore the ‘Hollow Earth’, enlisting Kong as a reluctant guide along with ‘Kong Whisperer’ Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a deaf-mute who shares a special bond with Kong.
Meanwhile, Godzilla – believed to be benevolent following the events of King of the Monsters – randomly attacks the HQ of Apex Cybernetics, leaving humanity wondering whose side he’s really on. Young Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) suspects Apex is up to no good and infiltrates the complex, only to discover an even greater threat is about to be unleashed…
Part of the MonsterVerse’s success is having filmmakers at the helm who are fanboys at heart, with solid genre credentials: Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards (Monsters), King of the Monsters’ Michael Dougherty (Krampus), and now Adam Wingard (You’re Next). Wingard brings a fresh perspective to the monster mayhem, most notably injecting more humour and some creative camera acrobatics and editing to the numerous battles, which echo the shooting style of Guillermo del Toro on Pacific Rim.
Moreover, Wingard knows what the fans want and throws in a surprise kaiju foe that Toho devotees have been clamouring to see in the MonsterVerse (albeit one that was revealed just prior to the film’s release, thanks to a certain tie-in toy). And the spectacular final showdown that reduces Hong Kong to rubble evokes nostalgia for the Godzilla films of old.
The Monsterverse has always attracted quality actors, who jump at the chance to share the screen with some of cinema’s most iconic monsters and deliver cool dialogue like, “Kong bows to no one.” Along with Rebecca Hall and Skarsgård, Godzilla vs. Kong adds Eliza Gonzalez (Baby Driver), Demián Bichir (Alien: Covenant), and loveable Kiwi Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2) as a sidekick for Millie’s Madison.
Those that have grown up loving both Godzilla and Kong will find it hard to choose a side, but ultimately, whoever loses, the audience is the winner.
In cinemas: March 25, 2021
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobbie Brown
Directed by: Adam Wingard