Two of cinema history’s largest and most profitable titans clash in the epic next instalment of the Monsterverse, Godzilla vs Kong.
Director Adam Wingard helms the biggest film of his career, with an estimated eye-watering $180-200 million budget from a collaboration between WarnerMedia and Legendary Studios. Initially due for a summer 2020 release, this behemoth of a project was put on hold and delayed many times until Warner Bros’ announced that its new streaming service HBO Max would release the film. It would be delivered at home for streaming and in cinemas on the same day, marking a bold new release strategy for the studio.
In what was self-described as the fight of the century, it’s disappointing to say that Godzilla vs Kong is just a big pile of bland. There are things to enjoy here, though they are few and far between. The visual effects, naturally, are spectacular. The way the titular behemoths are rendered into real-world environments is nothing short of movie gold. And when they throw down and get into the fight everyone’s been waiting for, it’s pretty entertaining while it lasts. There are some exciting sequences with standout monster moments peppered throughout and a truly in-your-face opening credits sequence, with a fun and over-the-top style that sets up an over-the-top film.
The problem with the last Monsterverse entry, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), is its characters and plot, and there is no improvement to be found here. It is a bizarre choice to continually focus on the many humans involved in the story. Some are definitely essential for exposition purposes, Rebecca Hall’s character being the heart of the film and a deaf child who has a peculiar bond with Kong. Their relationship isn’t clearly explained, but it’s definitely the best this script has to offer character-wise. Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison’s characters are entirely pointless. They offer nothing to the film except to reveal a conspiracy against Godzilla that, when resolved, has nothing to do with their efforts, making their egregious amount of screen time feel utterly wasteful.
The continual trend that major studios partake in is getting independent filmmakers with a distinct style and personality (Gareth Edwards with Rogue One, Colin Trevarrow with Jurassic World) and essentially forcing them to make the project the way the studio wants it. Adam Wingard’s style seen in his low budget horror films before this is hardly felt at all, making this feel like just another soulless blockbuster with no style or personality. These days, it is a rarity to point at a big-budget film and know who made it; the last example of this would be the 2000s Spider-Man trilogy which felt like Sam Raimi films, only with money thrown at them, and they were all memorable for that reason. Godzilla vs Kong will, unfortunately, slip into the background of forgettable modern blockbusters.
Godzilla vs Kong will satisfy fans who liked every other Monsterverse entry and entertain casual filmgoers who just want to see a monster fight. Despite the fact nobody cares about the humans in these movies, they are in it a lot. The choice to focus on them so much hinders the pace and detracts from the enjoyable monster fights. If they are to make more of these Monsterverse films, here’s hoping they focus on the monsters and forget the pointless human filler next time, and let the filmmaker make a film and not a forgettable product.
This is the first film in 59 years to feature both King Kong and Godzilla.