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Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong

2 April 21 words: Jamie Morris

The much-anticipated monster mashup is a mostly enjoyable blockbuster that fails to tell a compelling story, says Jamie Morris...

Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall
Running time: 113 minutes

The rivalry between Godzilla and King Kong is so iconic that it’s almost surprising to remember it’s only been officially depicted twice over the course of the two monsters’ decades-spanning cinematic history. As a result, Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong—a remake/rematch of the 1962 original—feels familiar from the onset, and needs little introduction before the fighting ensues.

In the previous MonsterVerse outing, 2019’s King of the Monsters, Godzilla took a step closer to becoming top dog after throwing it down with an ensemble of other classic kaiju. The final piece to knock off the colossal chess board is Kong, who’s being kept safe in a giant nature reserve on his home of Skull Island, but when scientists discover the ancient ape could be the key to unlocking a hidden world beneath the surface of the Earth, the two titans end up on a collision course that can only end in mass destruction. 

It follows the ‘versus movie’ formula to the letter, with several rounds of colossal combat taking place while the real antagonists hatch their plot from behind the scenes. It’s like Batman v Superman with less talking and more punching. Thankfully, the monster set pieces are spectacularly executed and easily among the best action sequences to be found across either of the long-running monster franchises. Both kaiju—brought to life with some genuinely impressive CGI—have plenty of time in the spotlight, with Kong in particular really getting a chance to shine.

Whilst the best kaiju movies put their monsters in the service of the story, Godzilla vs. Kong makes the mistake of putting its story in the service of the monsters

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the human characters. There are far too many, and not even the returning cast receive a suitable amount of development or attention. Potentially interesting heroes and villains end up as nothing more than caricatures who exist to fire missiles and pass the time between each big brawl. The only exception is Kong’s little companion Jia (played by newcomer Kaylee Hottle), with the pair sharing some touching moments that make for a nice change from the ape’s traditional infatuation with blonde bombshells. 

The monsters are quite clearly positioned as the protagonists here, and it mostly works—there’s even an attempt to blend the disaster movie trappings of the Godzilla films with the adventure elements of the Kong movies by having the latter venture into the unknown lands of the Hollow Earth. It’s great to see these two icons on screen together again, this time with a mythology that fleshes out their roles in a shared ecosystem.  

However, the film still falls short of the standard of storytelling that its stronger predecessors have proven is possible. While the best kaiju movies put their monsters in the service of the story, Godzilla vs. Kong makes the mistake of putting its story in the service of the monsters. The result is a visually impressive and highly entertaining blockbuster, but one that’s unfortunately as hollow as the Earth on which it takes place.

Did you know? Toho, the studio that produced the original King Kong vs. Godzilla film and 1967’s King Kong Escapes, intended for Kong to appear in subsequent Godzilla films, but plans were scrapped when their license on the character expired. The suit was later reused to portray an unnamed gorilla in an episode of the 1974 TV series Go! Greenman.

Godzilla vs Kong is available on premium VOD rental

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