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‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’ review: Dir. Adam Wingard (2021)

by Luke Ryan Baldock

We’re all sick and tired of adverts talking about ‘these unprecedented times’ and every facet of life referencing Covid. That being said, it’s also important to state that, for the release of a film in which giant monsters smash the living daylights out of one another, I was extremely lucky to find myself in a country where cinemas are open. As a massive fan of all things Godzilla, the extra year long wait has been an extra year of hype and excitement for the most part. There were a few moments of worry along the way, including Adam Wingard as director, whose smaller earlier efforts such as The Guest and You’re Next may have been brilliant with large doses of personality, but his efforts at translating pre-existing material such as The Blair Witch and Death Note were sorely lacking in the sublime craft of their predecessors.

Yet here we are! Finally! Two of cinema’s biggest stars about to wrestle each other for the first time in 58 years. Kong enters the fight with a previous win under his belt, though as far as this entry into the Monsterverse is concerned, this is the first time they’re facing off. For those not up to date with the goings on in Legendary’s Monsterverse, catching up isn’t the gargantuan task that newcomers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe may encounter. Quick summary, monsters known as Titans once ruled the planet and now they have slowly returned. Skull Island, home of Kong, was discovered just after the Vietnam War, but kept under wraps by a government agency known as Monarch. Godzilla came back in 2014 to protect humanity from monsters known as MUTOs, and again 5 years later to tackle other monsters such as King Ghidorah, who had been released from hibernation by eco-terrorists.

Godzilla Vs. Kong is set a few years later, with no confirmed Titan sightings in those years. Kong has been kept on Skull Island with the use of a large dome by exposition spouter, and seeming replacement for Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa of the previous two Godzilla films, Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall). Kong has made friends with the last surviving native human inhabitant of Skull Island, a little girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle) who is by far the best human component of this film. Despite not having a single line of dialogue, and judging by the campy expository nonsense or inane quips spouted out by the rest of the cast that is a huge plus, Hottle conveys the most human emotions through her facial expressions. She even made this Godzilla fan want the big lizard to go easy on the brooding ape.

Meanwhile Godzilla has started inexplicably attacking humanity, or at least sites owned by the company Apex, who are definitely not up to anything shady. Millie Bobby Brown returns from the previous film to team up with conspiracy podcaster Bernie Hayes (BrianTyree Henry) to help investigate Apex and to clear Godzilla’s name. At the same time Dr. Andrews is convinced to allow Kong to be moved by scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), as it is believed that Kong can show them the way to the birthplace of all Titans. The only catch being that both Kong and Godzilla are alpha Titans, and so will be drawn to one another to engage in combat where only one will come out victorious.

As you can imagine, the human stories are disposable, and just an excuse to get the monsters to fight. Every actor is at least “fine” in their role but they can all be divided into Exposition, Comic Relief, or Villain. All apart from the aforementioned Jia, who is just pure love and concern for Kong. She feels uneasy with helping the scientists and wants what is genuinely best for Kong. Despite such thin characters what really annoys is just how many there are. It becomes almost comical to an extent. The fantastic Lance Reddick, whose name is in the opening credits, is introduced with 30 minutes to go in the runtime. Sorry! He isn’t introduced, he shows up, there is no introduction and he has one line of dialogue and less than a minute of screen time. I don’t even think he gets a name. It seems as though a lot may have been cut from the film, as we also have Shun Oguri as the son of Watanabe’s Serizawa character. We know it’s his son because they have the same surname. There is no other mention of their relationship or why their motivations are so different. Surely there must be a scene in which the younger Serizawa discusses how his father was always away dealing with his research and this is why he doesn’t share the same love for Titans. 

I could go on and on, but I won’t, because just like the film itself, you didn’t come here to hear that. You want to know about the battles, and by jove are they spectacular. I loved the fights from the previous installments in this universe, but many complained about cutting away at the best parts and the fights being shrouded in darkness. No such complaints here. Even when the fights are at night they are beautifully captured against a neon city landscape. They are harsh, brutal, and completely engaging. Although the men-in-suits approach will always be my favourite when it comes to monster smackdowns, here the CGI allows these behemoths to battle in ways we’ve not seen before. Godzilla on all fours channelling his lizard brethren to gain some Kong rivalling speed is just fantastic to watch. The fights also capture the characters so perfectly, with grunty closeups and subtle facial twitches converting all the anger and hate and complexity you need, and there IS complexity. Kong and Godzilla are both at odds with what they want to do and what their instincts are encouraging them to do.

Most surprising of all however is just what a barmy sci-fi escapade this whole adventure is. I don’t want to give away too much, but after Godzilla: King of The Monsters, I wondered how they would match the grandiose battles and tributes to fans. The answer, apparently, was to embrace the wackier sci-fi elements from early Godzilla films. Watch this straight after Gareth Edward’s 2014 franchise starter, and you’ll be perplexed as to how we got here. It was a joy to see the film go to places that some may have argued as being too “out-there”. But that’s why I’ve always loved the films of Godzilla, they can be hard hitting social commentaries, simplistic monster battles, or wacky untethered science-fiction films. They are rarely perfect, and that’s what makes them so much fun. Godzilla Vs. Kong is the crazy, adrenaline pumping, loud epic that it needed to be.

Godzilla Vs. Kong

Luke Ryan Baldock



Godzilla Vs. Kong is the crazy, adrenaline pumping, loud epic that it needed to be.


Godzilla vs Kong is released on premium VOD from Thursday, April 1st 2021.

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