‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ review: monster mash ’em up is mighty good fun

A giant monkey slaps a giant lizard into a skyscraper – and we are here for it

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    We needed this. The last time there was a proper summer blockbuster it was 2019 – with an endless winter of closed cinemas and missed release dates dragging on for more than a year now. Godzilla vs. Kong might not be perfect, but there’s no better way to signal the return of big, silly, expensive thrills than watching history’s greatest giant monsters body slam each other through a city for two hours.

    It’s a crying shame not to watch something like this on the biggest IMAX screen around, but sticking it on pay-per-view lends the film a fun fight-night vibe that feels almost fitting for a movie that really is all about the blow-by-blows. A mad mix of Jules Verne sci-fi, anime logic and Pacific Rim bombast, all soaked in Daft Punk visuals, Godzilla vs. Kong is pure eye-glazing, mind-numbing entertainment. Think about it for more than five minutes and the whole thing seems ridiculous, but sit back and let the CG circus roll over you and it’s almost like being back in your local multiplex.

    Godzilla vs. Kong
    ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’, a fight night for the ages. CREDIT: Warner Bros.

    Legendary’s MonsterVerse has come a long way from 2014’s Godzilla reboot. Where Gareth Edwards’ first chapter moved with restraint, every sequel since (Kong: Skull Island, in 2017, and Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, in 2019) has gotten progressively louder, sillier and less human – pushing back further towards the franchise’s kookier roots in the Japanese originals.

    While storytelling seems pretty low on the priority list for Godzilla vs. Kong, if you haven’t seen the other movies you’ll probably be completely lost. Even after three films of setup, this is a ridiculously overstuffed, overcomplicated film – and it still manages to find room for a dozen plot holes literally big enough for a giant monkey to crawl out of.

    Godzilla vs. Kong
    Kong, the titular mega-ape who causes city-wide destruction. CREDIT: Warner Bros.

    We catch up with Kong almost 50 years since we last left him at the end of the Vietnam war on Skull Island, now contained in a giant zoo bubble by Monarch agent Dr Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted deaf island girl, Jia (Kaylee Hottle). If Kong ever gets out, Monarch knows that Godzilla will swim back up from the sea again and fight him to redress the natural balance of alpha titans. While that’s probably more than enough prologue to get the two monsters punching each other, the film doesn’t stop there.

    Across the Pacific Ocean, conspiracy kook Bernie Hays (Brian Tyree Henry) is sneaking into a shadowy research centre to get material for his podcast, and Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) is following him to find out if his theories about a Godzilla cover-up are correct. Five minutes after that, disgraced geologist Dr Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) is helping Monarch ferry Kong across the sea on a battleship so he can lead their prototype spaceships down a series of tunnels into the centre of the Earth, enabling them to locate a hidden power source for something or other… Still with us?

    Godzilla vs. Kong
    Godzilla emerges from the sea to take down Kong and restore the natural balance of the MonsterVerse. CREDIT: Warner Bros.

    It’s not much sillier than most Marvel MacGuffins, but once the plot has stacked up a few radioactive rollercoaster rides, zero-G monkey ballets and glowy magic battle axes, it’s hard to care about anything that’s happening, much less understand it. But while it’s never okay to excuse a movie for skimping on the script just because the action scenes deliver, if ever a film could get away with it, it’s this one.

    Godzilla vs. Kong is really only ever about one thing, and it’s right there in the title. As soon as the two titans meet, everything else gets small. Director Adam Wingard soaks every shot in neon kitsch; with synth-heavy needle drops pushing a retro-futurist vibe that just about fits all the comic book chaos. Better still, Wingard also has the sense to pull the camera back, ease up on the edits, and strip away all the thick curtains of rain/snow/fog that covered up all the best bits of the previous films to let us see what’s actually happening.

    Beautifully choreographed, an early bout in the middle of the sea (where Kong plucks a fighter jet out of the sky and lobs it at Godzilla like a dart) is already a series highlight before the film’s main set-piece starts – a dizzying 25-minute grand slam in downtown Hong Kong that looks instantly iconic, boasting the kind of speaker-shattering destruction that will have the neighbours complaining.

    One (very) big cameo will keep long-time ‘Zilla fans happy, and there’s always room for more in a franchise that refuses to follow any rules, but it’s also difficult to see where the MonsterVerse has any room to go next. The series started off trying to make a smart, grown-up Godzilla movie, but we all knew it was going to end like this – not with more moody slow-pans, but with a giant monkey slapping a giant lizard into a shopping mall.

    Details

    • Director: Adam Wingard
    • Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry
    • Release date: April 1 (video on demand)
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