Godzilla vs. Kong, 2021.
Directed by Adam Wingard.
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Demián Bichir, Zhang Ziyi, Lance Reddick, Van Marten, Erol Brandis, Daniel Nelson, Danai Gurira, Chris Chalk, John Pirruccello, Ronny Chieng, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, and Kaylee Hottle.
Two titans clash in a smackdown for the ages, as Kong turns from enemy to ally. Facing off against a greedy corporate machine and an ancient adversary, Godzilla vs. Kong promises to level the playing field forever.
This film is not winning any awards for nuanced performance, slow burn drama or subtle dialogue delivery. A statement of intent is laid down within five minutes, which is backed up by the first titan attack soon after leaving no grey area. Godzilla vs. Kong might have a solid cast, but they are there to look panic stricken and keep things moving. Introductions are fleeting and motivations barely matter.
Alexander Skarsgard’s Nathan Lind links set pieces through exposition, while Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison make up the numbers. Rebecca Hall’s Kong expert also gets lost amongst the VFX and staggering soundtrack which announces everything. On screen location changes spoon feed the audience, while corporate subplots attempt to turn this into something more serious.
Demian Bichir heads up the evil Apex Cybernetics as Walter Simmons, conspiring with his daughter Maya played by Eiza Gonzalez. Their intentions may be nefarious from the outset, but they also possess the most substance. Walter Simmons might come across as a pantomime villain, but at least he is fully realised rather than feeling paper thin.
Nowhere is this transparency more apparent than with Kyle Chandler’s Mark Russell. From the get go he gets minimal screen time, while Brian Tyree Henry’s Bernie Hayes suffers a similar fate before the action kicks off. Alongside Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison, his role gets reduced down to reactions shots. Family connections, relationship threads and connective tissue between these characters is virtually non-existent. This neither pretends to be high drama, nor anything approaching a genuine thriller, yet remains hugely enjoyable throughout.
Godzilla vs. Kong is solely invested in its creatures, while both titans are wrought on screen with genuine care allowing performance capture to come through. Kong is frustrated, isolated and fundamentally a creature out of time. Director Adam Wingard is no stranger to the legacy of this character and provides pivotal touchstone moments, which humanise those more primal elements.
Singular human connections through sign language combine with a real sense of frailty post smackdown, getting audiences on side incrementally. In comparison, Godzilla is shown in flashes of sun dappled prehistoric scale, huge tidal shifts and a palpable sense of threat. Set pieces are perfectly handled, matching blockbuster carnage with small moments of emotional investment.
Environments are meticulously rendered, pitch battles feel tangible and despite the huge scale Godzilla vs. Kong really works. Tonally it feels like genre classic Independence Day, which managed to mix fleeting character moments with large action sequences. Adam Wingard might not elevate his solid cast to the heights of that benchmark, but he manages instead to reinvigorate the blockbuster model.
Its final act is a perfectly orchestrated thirty minute face off, which is aimed at blockbuster purists. Epic in ambition and monumentally bombastic in its world building, Godzilla vs. Kong feels designed for cinema. It demands a big room and represents the clearest indication yet that theatrical exhibition is still a viable proposition.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★