Godzilla Vs. Kong Review: A Bad Movie With Immense Monster Brawls
Godzilla vs. Kong should have been the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world. If only it stuck to the brief.
We’re a primitive species. Beneath all the nuance and prestige artistry cinema has to offer, blockbuster history pretty much testifies that a bout between a lizard with atomic breath and a giant ape is a guaranteed seller. As Ken Watanabe said: ‘Let them fight.’
After a year cooped up in front of our humble TVs, the trailer for the titans’ first meeting since 1963 became Warner Bros’ biggest online debut. It promised a spectacle of stupid monster brawling, and the film certainly delivers – if you can bear the absolute dross in-between.
Like the set-up matters – or makes any sense – but here it goes: Godzilla is being a naughty boy. Something is making him lash out, and despite his service to the planet over the past years, the sinister Apex Cybernetics is hatching a (rather predictable) plan. Meanwhile, Kong is living a Cabin in the Woods/Truman Show existence in a dome, but he’s growing up. Together, they’re the only two titans on Earth.
Inexplicably, as the title suggests – after 40 tedious minutes of build-up and woeful writing – they come to blows. And again, and again, and it’s a blast. You’ll whoop, laugh, gasp and cheer; if you’re lucky enough to see it in a packed auditorium, it’ll remind you of the joyous power of movies.
The euphoria – backed up by Junkie XL’s epic, punchy score – will also keep you from noticing the surrounding swamp of wonky CGI, empty-headed characters and a story that can’t breach eye-rolling nonsense into a gleefully goofy B-movie. There’s hefty swings conceptually, unexpectedly plunging to Vernian sci-fi depths, but it often feels like an ocean the depth of a puddle (just like the ones Godzilla stands in).
Adam Wingard, a 2010s horror revelation with You’re Next and The Guest, feels like nothing more than a steady hand. There’s undoubtedly a current of Kaiju love, and breathtaking monster photography thanks to Ben Seresin, but even the smallest step outside those glories is entirely vapid. You’ll feel nothing but restlessness until it retreats to mayhem. As Eliza Gonzalez asks: ‘Who’s the idiot who came up with this idea?’
The cast isn’t to be sniffed at: Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Julian Dennison (what a waste!) and Brian Tyree Henry (done the dirtiest of all, playing a unlikeable kook akin to Woody Harrelson’s conspiracy theorist in 2012). Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler also reprise their roles from King of the Monsters; and echoing that sequel, you won’t care about any of them.
Out of the three predecessors, it’s most similar in vibe to Kong: Skull Island. But where the lack of character development could be forgiven under its up-the-river survival story, Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein repeatedly, infuriatingly hinge this franchise on its worst element: the humans.
Yes, the titular fight means the most, but that doesn’t give a pass to dreadful ground-level material. The Showa era knew this, as did Peter Jackson’s epic and 2016’s underrated Shin Godzilla. It’s always ranged from naff to abysmal – here, it’s the far end of the latter. Cut 35 minutes and an entire plotline, it might have been something.
Godzilla and Kong’s big-screen war is an uproarious mess. We can – and should – expect better.
The movie premiere of Godzilla vs. Kong will be available to rent at home from April 1.
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