Godzilla vs. Kong (Cert 12)

1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Warner Bros.) Running Time: 113 minutes approx.

Release Date – June 14th

In 1962, two of the biggest stars in cinema went head to head in a brutal battle – not Joan Crawford and Bette Davis but King Kong and Godzilla! It was a fight for the ages (well as much as two guys in monster suits and a modest production budget could deliver) and a rematch has been demanded ever since. And here it is – sort of…

Five years after Godzilla (with an assist from Mothra) defended the planet against King Gidorah and was declared the top Titan and Earth’s defender, he suddenly appears at the Pensacola branch of Apex Cybernetics and destroys the building in a fit of rage. As this was happening, Apex employee and conspiracy theorist podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) stumbles upon an unusual cargo bound for Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Kong is resting on Skull Island inside a giant monitor dome run by Monarch, where he has befriended Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a deaf-mute orphan and last of the Iwa people, communicating by sign language. Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) wants to find a lost power source in Hollow Earth, home of the Titans, and needs Kong to escort his team there, led by scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård).

The so-called Monsterverse began with the US reboot of Godzilla in 2014 and continued with Kong: Skull Island three years later, and appeared to be on course to be a new franchise. However, unlike the Marvel Universe, it seems to have already peaked with Godzilla vs. Kong which one would have assumed was the endgame, in lieu of the fact no other monsters have appeared with their own films.

Adam Wingard has taken of directing duties here, with roughly the same nucleus of the writing team behind the previous outings. This might send alarm bells ringing for those of you who didn’t enjoy those entries, and in essence, you are correct to be worried. It seems they are so intent on telling compelling stories to facilitate the monster battles that they forget that is really what the audience wants to see.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some fine action and the major battle scenes are every bit the destructive, epic-sized, chaotic CGI collisions we’ve come to expect from Hollywood productions these days, but it says Godzilla vs. Kong on the marquee, so why not deliver exactly that? It is not even a case of the plotting being bad, rather what feels like three different stories being told and they don’t converge as successfully as they should.

Let’s look at the basics. First, we have the mystery of why Godzilla is suddenly on the rampage again, since the attack was specific and not random as Apex want the world to believe. Fair enough, this could have easily served as the main story and not even have needed Kong to be involved given the magnitude of the reveal. All is does is render Simmons as the megalomaniac antagonist with spurious motives for his actions.

Subsequently, it comes across as additionally contrived to feature the returning Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) now a rebellious teen hooking up with Bernie to solve the mystery, along with her tech nerd friend Josh (Julian Dennison), whose credentials are conveniently not mentioned until the most crucial part of the film! Disobeying her father (Kyle Chandler), who now runs Monarch, Madison, Bernie, and Josh end up on the most ridiculous journey in search of answers, echoing the cheesy plots of 1960s Gamera films.

Over on the Kong side, young Jia is essentially manipulated into getting the giant ape to help the humans by Lind via her adopted mother Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), under the pretence of taking him home. Again, this is another plot that could have worked on its own for Kong and not needed to involve Godzilla, easily replacing him with any number of beasts.

Regardless, the first fight takes place at sea, as Godzilla is hurtling towards somewhere and crashes into the fleet of ships escorting Kong home. It’s a unique twist but it sets up the advantages each monster has in their own environment so to speak – so when round two comes, they’re are on terra firma (Hong Kong to be precise), meaning Kong can use the buildings to his advantage, which he does.

What about the rubber match? I’ll leave you to find that out for yourselves but suffice to say it is a fun, decisive romp but is telegraphed by the big mid film reveal, which should have been a Godzilla-only plot to introduce it, then have this as a later cross over. But, I didn’t write this script so we get the overstuffed Disney-style adventure on offer here, take it or leave it.

Judging by the negative reviews and poor box office (which isn’t a fair metric under the circumstances), many did leave it. For this writer, it isn’t a bad film just a problematic one, partly due to the Hollywood philosophy of throwing everything including the kitchen sink into their blockbusters. One area this applies to is the world building – Hollow Earth is an Avatar-esque underground domain, whilst the interior of the Apex buildings is very Star Wars.

Quite a mix of visual styles and influences that jars a little – Bernie has an old school flip phone for example – but this is a fantasy and we have been asked to accept plenty of dafter things in cinema. The cast clearly believe in the script and oblige everything asked of them but we can’t help but see their characters as functional archetypes, a shame for them since the draw is the titular monsters.

You would think the story for a Godzilla vs. Kong showdown would practically write itself but Hollywood clearly disagrees. The action is suitably bombastic fun, enough to feel worthwhile as the true attraction, but by overegging of the pudding with the set-up, complete satisfaction will depend on one’s leniency towards messy scripting.  

 

Extras (Blu-ray):

English Language DTS-HD MA

English, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Hindi, Hungarian, Polish, Tamil, Telugu Language Dolby Digital 5.1

English Language Descriptive Audio

English SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Czech, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish Subtitles

Audio Commentary

 

The God

Godzilla Attacks

The Phenomenon of Gojira, King of the Monsters

 

The King

Kong Leaves Home

Kong Discovers Hollow Earth

Behold Kong’s Temple

The Evolution of Kong, Eight Wonder of the World

 

The Rise Of Mechagodzilla

 

The Battles

Round One: Battle at Sea

Round two: One Will Fall

Titan Tag team: The God and The King

 

Rating – ***  

Man In Black