Godzilla vs Kong Movie Review: An epic visual extravaganza
Godzilla vs Kong delivers exactly what's required and expected of the genre, and despite its flaws, stands out as the best film of the franchise
MonsterVerse has come a long way. Though not as elaborate as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or as fan-frenzied as the DC Extended Universe, this monster franchise has gained massive popularity culminating in the release of Godzilla vs Kong. With a lot riding on its shoulders, the film thankfully delivers exactly what's required and expected of the genre, and despite its flaws, stands out as the best film of the franchise.
The tentpole film, as expected, sees the two titans, Godzilla and Kong, clashing head-on for the position of the apex predator. But, since the lone prospect of the two beating the living daylights off each other is too purist a film, the makers decide to throw in a handful of humans into the crisis as garnish. This is where the rather-formulaic disaster drama must-haves like a secret government agency (Monarch), a private tech company (Apex), come into play. And then, we have the perfunctory bunch, trying to unearth the reason behind a mysteriously-abrupt attack by the usually passive-until-provoked Godzilla. The film digs deep, quite literally at times, into the hollow earth theory that the franchise had earlier teased about, and consequently, we are witness to some unseen areas of the MonsterVerse. The private organisation Apex wants to access this hollow earth to come up with a power source that can effectuate their sinister plans.
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry
The biggest convenience of the presently-revealed MonsterVerse is that the ultimate standoff between Godzilla and Kong, arguably two of the most heavy-duty monsters in the world of fiction, practically writes itself. After all, the much-awaited Godzilla vs Kong gridlock happens to be the 36th Godzilla film, and the 12th Kong movie, to have made it to the theatres. Over the years, both the monsters have been through so much drama and have spawned a rich and lasting pop culture legacy spanning almost 90 years. Early in the film, you get the feeling that director Adam Wingard had indeed respected the rich source material, and has smartly interwoven several goosebump-worthy high points seamlessly into the script. He has also incorporated modern sensibilities, and sneaky little tributes and references to its previous iterations are scattered throughout. Kong's affection towards a female character, which has been a popular trope in the ape's earlier films, is present here too, albeit with a twist. In one scene, he even climbs up a skyscraper to recreate the iconic shot of Kong climbing the Empire State Building in his very first film in 1933. And just like the epic transporting of Kong (with helium air balloons and what-nots) in the 1962 film, King Kong vs Godzilla, the modern iteration too has a similar scene, but uses helicopters. There is another callback to the 1962 film in a scene where a character says that the ancestors of these giants had already fought before.
Despite hindering the play between the two titans, Wingard has come up with a convincing story to justify the dramatic need of its characters. Many of the film's primary characters - like Apex's founder Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir) and son of the late Monarch scientist and the fan-favourite Ishiro Serizawa, Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri) - are reduced to mere stereotypes of ambitious men who want to control forces beyond their powers. It's the rest of the younger star cast, such as Kaylee Hottle, Millie Bobby Brown, and Julian Dennison, along with Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, and Brian Tyree Henry who make the rest of the non-monster portions convincing with their performances. Hottle as Jia is the best of the lot. She forms a bond with Kong and despite not being able to speak, understands the feelings of Kong and transcribes them to the rest. Brown as Madison Russell returns to her role from Godzilla: King of the Monsters as the enthusiastic kid who, this time along with her friend Josh Valentine (Dennison of Deadpool 2 fame), teams up with former Apex technician turned conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Henry) to uncover corporate truths.
What really sets Godzilla vs Kong apart is the brilliantly ideated and staged action shots between the two titans. The two legends having a face-off was a much-anticipated occurrence, and when they actually do, neither they nor the makers hold back the punches. When the blows rain down, the impact it creates is visually translated well, thanks to some fantastic cinematography. Right from the first fight at sea to the one in Hong Kong with neon lights illuminating the night, the action sequences feel... well, real! The creatures get hurt, bleed, get a dislocated shoulder, take time to recuperate, and at a point, one of them even needs defibrillation. Though the '#TeamKong' has more fans when compared to that of Godzilla, it's a no-brainer that the ape cannot really put up a fight with the nuclear-powered super-lizard. Technically speaking, one atomic breath of Godzilla is enough to incinerate Kong but the film's action choreography does an amazing job of making us believe it is a fight among equals. I only wish that most of these scenes weren't a part of the promotional materials, which gave away almost all of these humongous action set-pieces. Even the secondary fights involving Warbats have already made it to the trailer cuts, unfortunately.
Between all this mayhem, Wingard even effects a bit of symbolism. In one of the very few heart-warming scenes, involving Jia and Kong, their fingers touch each other, which reminded me of Michelangelo's famous fresco painting, The Creation of Adam. It's no wonder considering people see these titans as gods and meanwhile, Kong has already earned his first name. The makers have maintained a steady balance by infusing the film with fan service as well as some strong plot points that would work for the common audience. Godzilla vs. Kong is a simple, straightforward, no-holds-barred battle between the two legendary monsters, which is satisfying and almost worth all the hype it has generated over the years.