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Jack Bottomley
Media Correspondent
10:03 AM 5th April 2021
arts

Review: Godzilla Vs. Kong

When it comes to movie universes now, they are everywhere but - quite literally - they don’t come any bigger than Legendary’s MonsterVerse.

Inspired by the beloved kaiju movies of Toho Studios, fronted by Ishiro Honda’s 1954 landmark Godzilla (although King Kong was of course a creation of Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper in the landmark 1933 classic), this franchise has seen a number of directors already put their distinctive stamp on these monsters.

From Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla which showed a human eye to these titans of nature, to Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ 2017 Kong: Skull Island monster island war movie mash-up, to Michael Dougherty’s 2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters and its ancient almost biblical monster battle epic, each film has had its own feeling and passionate reflection of this revered kaiju lineage and roster of monster characters. Now, director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, Blair Witch) brings these two icons of cinema together in a film that embraces the mad but meaningful spirit of the Toho sequels arguably better than any Western kaiju film to date.

Godzilla has turned violent and nobody quite knows why, in response megabucks technology corporation Apex Cybernetics approaches former Monarch Geologist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) to help them find a great power source they believe to be located in the Hollow Earth, which humanity can use as a defence, and they come up with an ambitious (or mad?) plan to use Kong to help them do so.

This dangerous mission is overseen by Monarch linguist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) alongside a young Skull Island native girl Jia (Kaylee Hottle) who has formed a strong connection with Kong. This mission ultimately sees the two title Titan alphas come face-to face. Meanwhile, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) conducts her own investigation into what is actually provoking Godzilla, as she seeks out Titan conspiracy podcast host Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), who has his own ideas about what’s occurring.

I love the MonsterVerse, it is a franchise that does not hide its passion for these monsters and in Godzilla vs. Kong, we have a film delivering on every promise made. This is a kaiju knockout, that is loopy in all the best possible ways, with a plot that blends Jules Verne, Aquaman and Pacific Rim. It captures the heart (and at points bonkers-ness) of the films that inspired it, not to mention - in true Toho tradition - the meaning.

These films, despite being labelled as big dumb rubber suited monster brawlers, have often had a thematic groundwork and Godzilla vs. Kong does too. Like Dougherty’s film, this has an eco-edge to it, as it shows nature’s graceful redemptive powers in the face of humanity’s doomed lusts for control and domination.

The human characters are fun and likeable, even if some supporting faces are reduced to monster fodder or macguffin. With Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison being a slightly more comedic trio and fun to hang out with, as they go on their increasingly huge investigation (one particular reveal has you jumping for joy!). While Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgard’s narrative arc embraces the story’s wilder elements, but there are moments of genuine warmth thanks to the magnificent Kaylee Hottle (the human heart of Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein’s screenplay), and her kind connection with Kong, as she plays by far the best human character in the film.

That said, all involved realise you are here for these scaly and furry Titans and they deliver on an unimaginably huge scale. Kong’s character develops in ways comparable to his earliest days on the big screen, or more recently in Vogt-Roberts and Peter Jackson’s work, while Godzilla has his moments too, as he and Kong’s battle almost becomes like warring lions in a pride...albeit on a jacked scale!

Fans will absolutely be in their element here, with a film that does the utmost justice to these two pantheons of kaiju cinema and delivers a wall-to-wall good time. The WWE wrestling-esque action sequences are skyscraper levelling in their enormity, with Kong and Godzilla’s battles growing and growing throughout the duration in their scale.

It all concludes in a final third that is not only a dazzling showcase of what the latest CGI is capable of achieving (seriously it’s impressive) but also a perfectly executed spectacle, by a director and team who not only have listened to their audience but love the source material they have at their disposal. The film even makes time to reference some moments from the original 1962 monster rumble King Kong vs. Godzilla.

Tom Holkenborg’s super score underpins the gorgeous visuals and screen-igniting cinematography by Ben Seresin, with emotion and hair raising excitement, not to mention nods to the revered riffs of Akira Ifukube’s work in the original films.

After this film, the MonsterVerse is at a crossroads and its future remains open but after international numbers at the box office have wowed and made this the biggest blockbuster of the pandemic, any lover of film and the cinema experience should celebrate Godzilla vs. Kong’s success internationally on big screens regardless of their personal opinion. As good as some may be, cinema cannot be saved by a costume drama or an academy award hopeful about societal discontentment, but these legendary Titans of cinema might just have managed to do what no other has been able to and save the big screen experience.

I just hope we get the chance to saver this spectacular film on those very screens sometime very soon here in the UK.

12
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Kaylee Hottle, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Kyle Chandler, Julian Dennison
Release Date: Out Now (Sky Store, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play)