Film Critic Tom Smith-Wrinch enjoys the beastly bust-ups of the otherwise lacklustre Godzilla vs Kong
When someone tells you that the two great kaijus of Japanese and American B-movie cinema are going to battle it out in the greatest monster punch-up of the century, it is hard not to get just a little excited. Adam Wingard’s latest instalment in Legendary Production’s epic Monsterverse sees an exceptionally older Kong undertake a rather perilous journey to his home at the centre of the earth, summoning an enraged Godzilla in a fight that shakes the earth to its (literal) core. Chaos, calamity and cringe-worthy comedy ensues, not to mention a few good beastly bust-ups.
Unfortunately, however, the problem with any movie centred around mega-monsters incapable of coherent speech is that there, inevitably, must be human narratives as well. The director is able to make us root for these enlarged beasts by the end of the film, yet he does so at the expense of his one-dimensional characters, which fall short outside of a rather touching relationship between Jia (Kaylee Hottle) and a furry friend. Alexander Skarsgård’s performance as the tedious scientist-turned-hero, Dr Nathan Lindt, is especially lacklustre throughout, even growing a tad annoying. Throughout the epic it feels as if the human interactions on screen (which make up around 75% of the movie) are merely padding for the titanic showdowns that are scheduled to take place around them. Not until around 40 minutes in are audiences able to finally glimpse an initial brawl between Godzilla and his hairy counterpart. Those 40 minutes feel like an absolute slog.
The narrative is littered with clumsy dialogue and cringe-worthy lines of comedic relief. Millie Bobby Brown’s subplot is similarly painful and pointless, following a grown adult (Brian Tyree Henry) who spends the entire movie smuggling Brown, a child whom he has just met, into what is, apparently, one of the most covert bases on the planet. This storyline feels like an exact replica of another of Bobby Brown’s better known works in which monsters, children and governments collide, but it lacks all the fun, drama and inevitable peril of Eleven’s universe. In one flashy room, Tyree Henry’s conspiracy theorist and all-round outdated stereotype, Bernie, exclaims that, ‘if this wasn’t contributing to world destruction, it would make a great DJ booth.’ I’m sorry, but what does that even mean?
The technology used within these films is also worth discussing. When the first instalment of the Monsterverse, Godzilla, was released in 2014, its tech was realistic and grounded within its time period. How, then, in a film released just seven years later, are characters able to use words such as ‘psionic uplinks’ and ‘gravity inversion’ to create technology that is able to transport characters to the centre of the earth, 2008 Brendan Fraser style? Has the director somehow managed to obtain tech from the 22nd Century within his films? For the love of god, where is the continuity?
That said, the film does have its upsides. Firstly, in a movie promising furiously gigantic monster clashes it does indeed deliver, albeit briefly. From a visual perspective; beautiful shots, bright colours and big monsters are a true feast for our inner child’s eye. Wingard manages to maintain a coherent sense of scale throughout as audiences get an accurate taste of the enormity of both Godzilla and Kong’s destructive potential. The CGI gives their fruitful punch-ups the allusion of a drunken-pub brawl, yet it’s an entertaining piece of beastly bruising nonetheless. Fighting-wise, the film does not disappoint. The final confrontation has all the carnage and fun that one would expect given that both Dino and Ape collide in brute combat in spectacular Snyder-esque family-filled wholesale city destruction. They total Hong Kong’s skyline, throwing buildings around in similar fashion to the way in which a stroppy child throws their Lego on the floor. Both monsters and directors here seem to disregard any sense of human cost to their bashful bouts.
Whilst it may deliver in its big hits, relentless carnage and terrifying monsters, Godzilla vs Kong fundamentally feels like a massive waste of time. It is testament to the poor quality of its screenwriting when we are able to empathise more with the linguistically incompetent beasts in comparison to the movie’s tediously one-dimensional and painfully cringeworthy characters. If you are looking to ride the monster rollercoaster you won’t be disappointed, just don’t be surprised when you spend 75% of the movie waiting in its queue.
Godzilla vs. Kong is now streaming on Sky Store and is available widely to rent on demand .
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