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MOVIES: Godzilla vs. Kong - Review

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Godzilla vs. Kong is the latest entry to the Monsterverse and something that I had been looking forward to for quite a while, but ultimately, it’s a bland, disappointing mess that continues very much in the same vein of King of the Monsters rather than the excellent 2014 Godzilla, which remains the apex and the peak of the Monsterverse thus so far, at least in its current iteration of WB-produced media. The much-anticipated clash between two titans barely registers, and instead feels nothing more than a whimper, kept to a small amount as the film aggressively decides to focus on a series of forgettable-to-terrible human characters, with the film featuring the return of Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison Russell, a character, who like pretty much every other in the Monsterverse, I fail to remember the name of the second the movie finishes and I’ve sat through each of these movies, apart from this one, twice. It's telling that I had to Google her name to write this review when I watched the movie earlier today.

One of the biggest selling points of Godzilla vs. Kong is the prospect of letting the two monsters brawl, and one of the counterpoints to the criticisms about the human characters being bad is that you’re not supposed to care about them, everyone here, myself included, is here to watch the two monsters go head to head. But why then, if that was to be the case, did Godzilla vs. Kong spend so much time with them? A solid 40 minutes of exposition so bad it rivals David Ayer’s Suicide Squad almost had me tuning out before the action truly began, and when the action kicked in, it did no favours and I never once felt the wait was worth it for what we ended up getting.

Like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, another highly anticipated vs movie that pitted two iconic characters against each other, Godzilla vs. Kong drops the ball on the actual “vs” part of the equation – there’s barely any conflict between the two monsters and the conflict that we get is completely underwhelming, the same sense of scale and threat and nihilistic nature of Godzilla is never replicated, and the King of the Monsters is just treated as a generic CGI punching bag. Kong doesn’t fare much better – and whilst the fights are bright enough to actually see this time, they offer little in the sense of excitement or thrill factor. I was expecting to be bored by the human storyline. I wasn’t expecting to be bored by the monster fights as well.

Adam Wingard has had a mixed track record as a director, but he's someone whose work I largely skewer positive towards. I loved The Guest and have a soft spot for his Blair Witch remake. But his latest franchise film offers little to no excitement or unpredictability and might just be the weakest film that he has directed so far, it just never takes any risks. The fun factor of Kong: Skull Island just isn’t there – it fails to embrace the tone of either of its predecessors and sacrifices originality in favour of what is essentially, another generic superhero movie under a different skin, even if at least the visuals are appealing to a degree.

This is from the same school of thought of blockbusters like Independence Day: Resurgence in terms of quality, however unlike Resurgence the reviews have been largely positive and, is one of those movies where I’m baffled by the sheer amount of love that it’s receiving. There’s nothing here that I truly connected with at all, and although the fights are Godzilla vs. Kong’s biggest strength, I came away expecting more from WB’s latest straight-to-HBO Max event offering. Maybe it would have been better viewed in the cinema, as I even liked King of the Monsters on an initial big screen viewing, so a later cinema viewing may improve the experience and I'm willing to give it another shot. But Godzilla vs. Kong is an ugly mess of a movie where too much is going on, everything feels all over the place, and whilst it knows exactly what sort of dumb monster movie it tries to be, it could at least be a good dumb monster movie.

This is part of a franchise that has strayed far away from its original intentions of the 2014 Godzilla that if you paired Godzilla vs. Kong with it it’d be hard to recognise both movies as coming from the same franchise, they feel so tonally. This latest failed course correction is aimed at creating a wacky, entertaining spectacle that embraces the silliness of its project – it doesn’t punch above its weight and knows exactly what film it wants to be from the outset. The characters only exist to get Godzilla and Kong into the same locations to fight each other, the script doesn’t even bother introducing most of them. Kyle Chandler just shows up. Alexander Skarsgard and Brian Tyler Henry are also there. So’s Rebecca Hall. They’re just there, bystanders in fights.

And again, this would be fine if there was more of a focus on what everyone is coming to Godzilla vs. Kong to see – but the fights are so little, barely taking up more than 30 minutes in screentime between them over the course of a feature-length presentation that you’re forced to spend more time with the characters than you want to. More work needed to be done to give them a greater sense of agency and purpose as essentially, in Godzilla vs. Kong, they have none.

I’m thinking something along the lines of say, Brody in Godzilla 2014, possibly the rare exception to my inability to remember the characters' names in this franchise. Or Charlie in Bumblebee, or the leads in Pacific Rim, which showed how to balance Kaiju-fighting thrills with incredible character development, whereas Godzilla vs. Kong gets neither elements right. Here in the movie, its biggest sin is a laboured, overly-produced script (with no less than five credited writers) that fails to live up to its potential and falls short of any and all expectations that I had going in.

Godzilla vs. Kong is available to buy on PVOD platforms in the United Kingdom now.

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