You would think by now that the proprietors of the particular cinematic universe that encompasses films surrounding a giant ape and a radioactive lizard would gather that we really don’t care about the human characters involved. Sure, it’s great for there to be suitably formed players, and in the case of these films they’re often embodied by capable actors (Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, and Vera Farmiga just some of the talent spread across the series so far), but if you’re going to hype such a film as Godzilla vs. Kong as the battle of all battles, you better not waste our time with overblown exposition.
And yet, here we are with Adam Wingard‘s overly stuffed sci-fi actioner brandishing a script of sorts from a duo of screenwriters who were clearly having an off day, compiling nonsensical material that feels wildly disconnected from even a narrative involving said giant ape and radioactive lizard; Eric Pearson, who was a co-writer on Thor: Ragnarok, and Max Borenstein, who penned 2014’s Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, arguably the two brighter spots of the series, serving as scribes here.
Before we get to the ultimate showdown, which finally arrives towards the end of the film’s 113 minute running time, and is a glorious sequence of neon-drenched lunacy, taking place above the towering heights of Hong Kong’s cityscape, where Godzilla and Kong both adopt mentalities likened more so to WWE performers, Godzilla vs. Kong sets up a series of battling storylines in an attempt to elevate whatever temperament it feels like it should be above.
Furthering the series’ ability to lure respectable talent, Godzilla vs. Kong bides our precious time between the likes of Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, and Demian Bichir as they lean into their character’s stereotypical personalities with little regard for the material they’re actually working with. Skarsgard, a geologist and the film’s reluctant hero, is involved primarily with the Kong side of things, working with the on-auto-pilot Rebecca Hall and young Kaylee Hottle as they try to guide Kong towards a habitat located in Hollow Earth, a place which gives the film the right to not only jump the shark but clear it entirely as it adopts a deep-space personality that doesn’t feel remotely organic to the Kong created in Skull Island.
Brown, one of the film’s few performers who injects subtlety into her delivery, is more an advocate for Godzilla, believing he’s friend not foe, and that his erratic behaviour is a result of interference from the shady Apex Corporation. This storyline feels more in tune with what you’d expect, with Brown and nerdy bestie Julian Dennison teaming up with conspiracy theorist Bryan Tyree Henry (a true casualty of the script, saddling him with wildly unfunny ramblings) to take down an evil CEO (Bichir, seemingly in on the joke that is this movie) whose own agenda for Godzilla borders on Austin Powers-level nonsense.
Given the fact that the 2014 Godzilla found a balance between its characters and its action, and Kong: Skull Island adopted a more bombastic temperament whilst maintaining a script that, though outlandish, managed to feel a little more grounded than usual, the fact that Godzilla vs. Kong decides to go balls-to-the-wall on derangement only further highlights the film’s inability to edit itself. I’m all for films of this ilk embracing the madness but this ultimately feels so disconnected from those aforementioned titles that it can really only be linked to its immediate predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which is ironic given that this feels more like a film about Kong.
Perhaps asking too much for a film that should’ve laid its focus on a monster battle instead of groundwork that ultimately means nothing once the two CGI titans take their swings on one another – the sequence itself is glorious in its stupidity – Godzilla vs. Kong is a B-movie (at best) through and through. Whilst I didn’t personally take to its overwroughtness, I can’t deny it’s certainly a big screen spectacle should you wish to devote your time to the most brainless of exercises. If King of the Monsters tickled you then this monstrous battle should suffice. If not, and you want your mindless action to have a little more ironic intelligence, this is one fight not worth the spectator fee.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Godzilla vs. Kong is screening in Australian theatres from March 25th, 2021. It will be released simultaneously in American theatres and digitally on HBO Max from March 31st, 2021.