GODZILLA VS KONG

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Adam Wingard

Stars: Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Bryan Tyree Henry, Demian Bichir, Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Shun Ogiri, Eiza Gonzalez, Lance Reddick, Kaylee Hottle, Ronny Chieng, .

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Two of the screen’s most iconic monsters Godzilla and King Kong square off against each other in this eagerly anticipated big budget CGI heavy film that is the latest entry into the Monsterverse franchise. This is not the first time that these two primordial monsters have duked it out – the first time was way back in 1962 in King Kong Vs Godzilla, which was produced by Japan’s Toho Studios, who owned the rights to the character.

Godzilla Vs Kong follows on directly from the previous two Godzilla movies, which were a part of Warner Bros’ more ambitious Monsterverse franchise, which they launched about four or five years ago.

Alexander Skarsgard (The Legend Of Tarzan, etc) and Rebecca Hall (The Gift, etc) play Nathan Lind and Irene Andrews, respectively, a pair of scientists who have taken Kong from his home on Skull Island and are moving him to Antarctica on a journey to find his true home, a mythical subterranean kingdom known as “Hollow World.” But they cross paths with Godzilla who has attacked the Apex Industries complex in Florida and is wreaking havoc across the globe.

Millie Bobby Brown reprises her role as Maddie Russell, the feisty teenage daughter of Mark (Kyle Chandler, from tv series Friday Night Lights, etc), a scientist working for the Monarch program which closely monitors the behaviour of the so-called Titans, of which Godzilla is one. She teams up with Bernie Hayes (Bryan Tyree Henry), an eccentric conspiracy theory podcaster who is investigating some strange activity involving Apex Industries. Together they try to discover what has angered Godzilla and set him off on his destructive rampage. It seems that Godzilla has been disturbed by a series of underground seismic rumbles that are the result of a top-secret project being conducted deep underground by Apex boss Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir, from tv series The Bridge, etc), a rogue scientist who hopes to rid the world of its Titan problems.

The visceral sight of two of the screen’s most iconic monsters beating the crap out of each other, while systematically destroying Hong Kong in the process, appeals to the 15-year-old boy in all of us. But, as with the Transformers franchise, ultimately it is hard to elicit sympathy for some CGI-generated creatures. Kong has always been the more sympathetic of the two because basically he is a freak of nature that has always been cynically exploited by man while the reptilian Godzilla, the so-called King of the Monsters, has always been somewhat unfairly depicted more as the villain.

Kong has a special relationship with Jai (Kaylee Hottle), a mute orphan girl, that allows the filmmakers to reveal Kong’s innate intelligence and ability to communicate using sign language.  There is some impressive and sophisticated CGI at work in these scenes. The superb state of the art CGI animation actually gives Kong a real personality.

Scripted by Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnarok, etc) and Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island, etc), from a story by Terry Rossio, Godzilla Vs Kong follows a fairly generic narrative that is largely uninteresting as it tries to explore the mythology behind a hidden world occupied by the Titans. The story essentially serves to fill in the gaps between the monster smackdowns. The first encounter between the two goliaths takes place at sea and is quitye exciting to watch. The second takes place in a giant underground kingdom known as “Hollow World”, and the massively destructive third confrontation takes place on the neon lit streets of Hong Kong.

The human characters are basically bland stereotypes, and they play second fiddle to the giant destructive eponymous behemoths.

The film has been directed by Adam Wingard (the superb The Guest, which reinvented Downton Abbey‘s Dan Stevens as a tough action hero), leaving behind his low budget roots for this tent pole blockbuster. He directs the material with plenty of robust energy. Wingard grew up watching the old Godzilla movies, and he invests the material with plenty of sly nods to the mythology of the creature.

Most of the film’s reported $200 million budget can be seen on the screen with its barrage of visual effects. The two creatures are rendered in incredible detail. This is easily the best-looking film in the Monsterverse to date, as the whole thing has been nicely shot by cinematographer Ben Seresin (World War Z, etc).

However, the headache inducing sound effects and bombastic score from Junkie XL have been cranked up to eleven.

Godzilla Vs Kong is a noisy, empty, special effects heavy spectacle that is full of sound and fury but little else. It is perfect fodder for the multiplex popcorn crowd who are not particularly interested in the more subtle nuances of solid scripting, character development or rich dialogue.

★★★

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