Godzilla vs Kong (2021) Review
There’s something reassuringly predictable about GODZILLA vs KONG, an adherence to convention that lets you stop worrying about some out-of-left-field twist or clever subversion and just sit back, relax and watch the monster mayhem unfold on screen. I mean did anyone actually believe that Legendary would take their two biggest (literally) stars and throw them into a ‘two monsters enter, only one monster leaves’ final showdown? Of course not!
When the previously, admittedly robustly, beneficent Godzilla starts to go on unprovoked rampages, the governments of the world panic once again and look for ways to end the Titan threat. In the search for a new power source, Kong is recruited to lead an expedition to the underworld of the hollow Earth but as soon as the giant ape leaves the protective environment of Skull Island, he surfaces on Godzilla’s radar and finds himself roped into the King of the Monster’s winner-takes-all title bout.
The Monarchverse has never had the tightest of continuities and that in turn has given it the freedom to tell the stories it wants to and overlook any slight discrepancies or cast changes. Indeed, perhaps the most awkward contortion GODZILLA vs KONG has to pull is to provide a reason for Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler to be in it because they were left alive at the end of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. Monarch themselves are largely sidelined in this movie in favour of a new organisation known as Apex, the ones who are searching for the power source in the Hollow Earth to enable their Titan focussed Final Solution.
Traditionally the human elements of these kaiju clash-fests have been the weakest elements, mainly there to serve as filler and keep the special effects budget within the realms of commercial viability but, for the most part, the human characters and side-plots here are fine, delivering just the right amount of exposition without slowing down the action or depriving us of an on-screen monster for too long. An expception to the adequacy, though, is the touching bond between Kong and Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a young deaf girl who communicates with Kong through sign language and a beyond-her-years sense of empathy. It’s a small but perfectly formed part of the film’s texture that provides an important emotional underpinning to the grandstanding carnage.
The monsters, on the other hand, have an abundance of character personality – something that’s always been a hallmark of the franchise right back to the stop-motion days of 1933 or the man-in-suit heyday of the 1950s and ‘60s (the exception, perhaps, being SHIN GODZILLA’s blank-eyed gormlessness in his emergent form) and GODZILLA vs KONG is no exception. Godzilla himself is as ferociously single-minded as ever; noble, determined and holding a grudging yet fragile tolerance of humanity as long as they stay out of his way and leave him the fuck alone. In that, at least, he’s very similar to KONG who just wants to be left in peace. There’s a resigned weariness to Kong who reacts to the various human shenanigans like an exhausted parent dealing with a hyperactive toddler but when it comes to who’s dad can beat up who, he’s not going to back down from a fight. The CGI and character design for both is superb and, like Jackson’s KING KONG, the devil – and delight – is in the details, the small expressions and mannerisms that bring these gargantuan creatures to vivid and spectacular life.
While the science supporting the story may be suspect, the action is beyond reproach and, refreshingly, whichever side of this throwdown you’re on, you’re likely to come away satisfied. Each star gets their fair share of licks in and there’s no cringe-inducing “Save Mothra!” moment to abruptly call a halt to the beatdown. This is how you handle a big-screen clash between two beloved characters (and sneakily debut a third) – by honouring what makes those characters individually great. If only BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE had been this good. #ContinueTheMonarchverse!