The MonsterVerse’s fourth swansong, Godzilla vs. Kong, has earned a surprising amount of hype since the trailer first dropped. It is now clear that the hype was warranted. This is easily the strongest, most consistent film in the franchise so far and an unholy amount of fun. The humans are swept under the doormat in favour of two big beasties slugging it out, and Godzilla vs. Kong is all the better for it.
Transported off Skull Island to help a team of humans uncover more about the titans’ origins, Kong finds himself face-to-face with Godzilla, who decides that there can only be one king in town. While one of them indeed emerges victorious, another human-born threat arises that could potentially wipe Godzilla, Kong, and all the other titans off the face of the earth. It is down to them, and a small group of humans, to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Director Adam Wingard, more used to horror movies than creature features, slots effortlessly into place as the master of ceremonies for this dust-up. Godzilla vs. Kong, for all of its bombastic and entertaining set pieces, is approached with some obvious thought and – dare we way – intelligence. The pacing keeps a near-ridiculous story feeling at least half reasonable. The visual effects are used skilfully to bring out impressive detail and depth (particularly in Kong) rather than simply frazzle your brain cells. As with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, there are plenty of call-backs and other creatures (new and returning) to keep franchise fans happy. And most importantly, when the action comes, it’s a hoot. Each of the fights is handled with deft choreography and framed for maximum impact, proof that monsters fighting is indeed a perfect tonic.
However, Godzilla vs. Kong knows when to drop the macho chest-pounding and don its stupid hat instead. Be it a starkly contrasting opening, in which Godzilla destroys a robotics factory and Kong… takes a shower, or a healthy amount of dialogue so god-awful that it proves unforgettably entertaining (“dump him! Dump the monkey!”), this balance of brass and crass lies at the heart of the film’s success.
Predictably, the human characters are largely tossed aside. Newcomers Alexander Skarsgård and Rebecca Hall are spared any real backstory. They are very obviously a means to an end and frankly, there is little need or want for them to be much else. Millie Bobby Brown, reprising her character from King of the Monsters, brings a refreshing independence and strength that was missing from her character’s last outing. But the only human character likely to leave much of an impression after the credits roll is first-time actress Kaylee Hottle as Jia, a deaf Skull Island orphan who develops a special bond with Kong. It is a remarkable performance, and as close as these movies have got to any real sense of heart.
Godzilla vs. Kong takes the MonsterVerse up a gear, finally feeling like the film that all parties concerned wanted to see happen. Compared to the past three films, which to differing extents were all trying to be several things at once, Wingard’s action-fest feels considerably more focused and less convoluted. This visually stunning, capably handled and occasionally bonkers kaiju calamity is a near-perfect piece of escapism that stands proudly as both Godzilla and Kong’s finest hours for quite some time.
Godzilla vs. Kong releases April 1st 2021.