Godzilla Vs. Kong, the fourth, and latest instalment in the cinematic Monsterverse, that pits two of the most iconic presences in motion picture history against each other, is a big dumb monster movie. Now usually you’d consider that to be something of a criticism, but hear us out. When describing this Adam Wingard blockbuster on those terms, it’s done so in an endearing and enthusiastic way.
In fact, when speaking to Wingard just week, he said in regards to the referring to his movie as ‘dumb’: “It’s easy to take offence to that as a filmmaker, but you have to look at it from an outside perspective and think, I would probably refer to it as the same and that’s okay because that’s what people want out of these movies”.
It’s this very attitude and outlook from the director which made him such a perfect choice to helm this production. So often these days in major studio flicks, there’s this contrived inclination to shoehorn in important messages, taking relevant, socio-political themes, and ensuring the narrative revolves around them, in an easy to digest, relatively unsubtle manner, so we all can leave the cinemas feeling like not only were we entertained, but we learnt something too. Hurrah!
Now there remains a place for films of that nature, but every so often you just want to turn your brain off, to indulge in mindless, escapist adventure, and that’s where Godzilla vs. Kong excels, with an apologetic commitment to pure entertainment, and delivering emphatically. I mean, it’s about two monsters. Fighting. It’s fighting monsters. Why would this be anything else?
In regards to the story, which effectively is just one big build up to two monsters fighting, we enter into a world that is attempting to co-exist with the two titans. But any sense of peace is disrupted when Godzilla begins a reign of terror, wreaking havoc on anything its path. Podcaster and conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) is convinced of some wrong-doing at Apex, vying to determine the reasons for the monster’s sudden rampage, believing that they are harming the creature, and in turn harming the planet. Teaming up with his fans – and fellow cynics Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and Josh (Julian Dennison), they dig deeper, only to find the future of mankind is in the balance. In the meantime, Kong’s protectors, fronted by Ilene (Rebecca Hall) and Nathan (Alexander Skarsgard) are embarking of a mission of their own, to relocate the giant to his true home, but they soon find themselves in the path of Godzilla as the clash between the titans beckons.
The story is one engulfed in conspiracy, and just shows how we, humans, really are the root of anything bad that happens. Quite a feat when we’re dealing with massive monsters. The problem with this approach, however, is the lack of development of the human characters that make up this tale. Bernie Hayes aside, who is the stand-out character within this narrative, bringing out yet another impressive display from Brian Tyree Henry, it seems that so much of the emphasis was on the special effects and on the epic action set-pieces, that we did forget about the film’s need for nuanced, interesting characters, to give the film a heartbeat.
Instead, the crux of the film’s empathy lies at the huge, hairy feet of Kong. On that front, Wingard succeeds, as the creature is utilised in a way we’ve not seen before, bearing a resemblance of sorts to our own pets, as we get a true sense for the blissful, animalistic qualities that lie within. This makes him an easy choice to root for when dealing with the primary conflict within this film, as whenever Kong comes head-to-head with Godzilla, we’re fully invested in wishing the former to come out on top. It is within these scenes the feature flourishes, the enormity of the sequences is felt, even on the smaller screen, and while it naturally does feel like a video-game at times, the fights are compelling and epic in scale, a real feat of blockbuster filmmaking.
But this leads us to the one main regret, and this is of no fault to the filmmakers at all, but monsters this vast deserve a screen to match. While this movie does undoubtedly work at home in the living room, where most audiences will be watching from, it’s hard not to envisage the experience of sitting in a cinema, overwhelmed by the size, feeling rightfully inadequate in our seats as the monsters collide in front of our very eyes. But hey, least it means we’ve got a reason to want to see them go at it again.
The movie premiere of Godzilla vs. Kong will be available to rent at home from 1st April.