Sunday, 28 March 2021

Film Review: Godzilla vs Kong

It's a royal rumble as King Kong squares off with the King of the Monsters in Adam Wingard's epic smackdown blockbuster, Godzilla vs Kong

These two titans of the silver screen have tussled before, but not on this scale. Godzilla vs Kong is the fourth entry in Warner Brothers' massive MonsterVerse series, and there's plenty riding on this brawl drawing a crowd. It's all been building to this – and Wingard, who is normally at the helm of something much smaller and much scarier, hasn't missed the mark. In short, this smackdown packs a punch – and doesn't get entangled in the lives of its (purposefully) two-dimensional human characters.

Wingard is reticent of the fact that no-one forking out to see Godzilla vs Kong is in it for the 'compelling' characters; we just want to see the radioactive lizard and the giant monkey kick seven shades of shit out of each other. So, aside from returning the characters played by Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown (as *checks notes* zoologist Mark Russell and his teenage daughter Madison), the cast is all new – and fairly incidental to the overall plot. 

There's Alexander Skarsgard as geologist Nathan Lind; Rebecca Hall as Kong linguist Ilene Andrews; Brian Tyree Henry as a conspiracy podcast host; Julian Dennison as Josh, Madison's techie wingman; and Eiza Gonzalez as a corporate suit with an ulterior motive. We meet each of them in passing, but they couldn't be less interesting if they tried. That's not a criticism on the actors; Godzilla vs Kong goes out of its way to strip it back to basics and centre itself on the titular titans. Everyone and everything else is just window dressing to the main event.

And when the main event arrives, it doesn't disappoint. Following an initial skirmish at sea set atop an aircraft carrier, the second half of Godzilla vs Kong is almost exclusively the two titans tearing into one another. Eye-popping visual effects and some imaginative choreography ensures the bombastic action doesn't become boring either. It's wall-to-wall noise and colour and kaiju chaos, in the best way possible. 

Both combatants are afforded a compelling reason for clashing, but it's Kong who is possibly more sympathetic, courtesy of Dr Andrews' adopted daughter Jia, a deaf and mute girl with who forges a special bond with the towering ape.

With a punchy runtime of under two hours, Godzilla vs Kong doesn't feel like a slobberknocker that goes the full 12 rounds. The film keeps it tight and doesn't overstay its welcome – a rarity among contemporary blockbusters.

The plot leans on some serious sci-fi concepts, which means the film feels even more removed from Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla film which kicked off the franchise. Whether or not that heightened reality works, is up to the viewer.

The Verdict: 7/10

A big, loud slugfest that serves up lashings of splashy spectacle, Godzilla vs Kong doesn't waste time pretending to be something that it's not. Unpretentious entertainment to a tee.

Godzilla vs Kong is in cinemas across Australia now.

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