Godzilla vs. Kong feature

Godzilla vs. Kong delivers on its promise of titans wrecking sh*t, and each other

The epic battle threatens to be overshadowed by too many human characters running around.

There is something admittedly pretty honest and down to the level about calling a movie Godzilla vs. Kong. It promises something that it cannot, under any circumstance, under-deliver on. Movies pitting two iconic figures against each other (be they Batman and Superman or Ecks and Sever) often end up crossing the boundaries set up by the title. There are practically no “versus” movies that aren’t also about other things, making them perhaps the most disappointing of all title tropes. Let me be clear here: Godzilla vs. Kong features exactly what is being boasted about in the title, and whenever that’s what’s on-screen, it delivers. Unfortunately, it also goes to prove exactly why so many versus movies venture beyond the titular confrontation. Everything that needs to be in place for Godzilla vs. Kong to happen is banal at best, a collection of interchangeable characters and tropes that stands as perhaps one of the most uninspired in recent blockbuster history. 

Like I said, don’t get me wrong: it is fully expected that I will not care or give two squirts of piss about the emotional backstories of the tiny humans jabbering in the foreground of elaborate CGI constructions. Audiences rarely do; it’s not, after all, what these movies are designed to do anymore. (One could argue that they never were, though I’m admittedly not enough of a Godzilla scholar to elaborate on this particular point.) But if I’m going to dismiss all of this stuff offhand in the search for the ever-desirable chills and thrills, I would like it to not be as dull and convoluted. Godzilla vs. Kong seems to be of two minds on that particular aspect of its existence. On one hand, it revels in the adolescent excess of its carnage, but on the other, it seems unnecessarily concerned with tying together various strands of plot and fleshing out characters that are absolutely perfunctory to the task at hand.

Granted, this is nothing new in the realm of blockbuster filmmaking, but it feels particularly egregious here — probably because the film makes good on delivering what it promises in the title and whiffs on nearly everything else. Everything in here is a pretext to get to the titular fight, but must pretexts be so dull and uninteresting?

Years after the events of the last Godzilla film, Kong is now living in a high-tech dome recreating Skull Island under the watchful eye of Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall). Kong and Godzilla are the only two Titans left on Earth, and Monarch (the organization tasked with keeping tabs on Kong) have surmised that the presence of two alpha creatures on Earth would lead to chaos were they to release Kong into the wild. Godzilla, however, has returned to cause havoc, somehow roping in a conspiracy theorist named Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), a teenage girl (Millie Bobby Brown, reprising her role from the first film) and her dorky best friend (Jacob Batalon). Meanwhile, a shady tech billionaire (Damian Bichir) has recruited Monarch geologist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to help solve the “Titan problem”; the plan involves traveling to the hollow Earth’s core with Kong in tow, which goes about as well as you can imagine.

Godzilla vs. Kong
Alexander Skarsgård in Godzilla vs. Kong

And so it goes for a thoroughly manageable 113 minutes, constantly flipping between the many characters and the various situations in which they must yell exposition at each other under pressure. The human element has always been important in the Godzilla universe, though it’s harder to track how deferential it can be to the world of Kong when you consider that most movies in the general Kong universe are variations on the 1933 original. But without any well-developed lead to latch onto, most of the human stuff here feels like it’s treading water, and the constant shifting of perspectives becomes wearying before long.

I can already hear the detractors complain — this isn’t Battleship Potemkin, after all — but I would’ve almost taken a movie that’s entirely overt, gleeful silliness as the Titans kick each other in the face while laying waste to entire continents rather than the laborious silliness of interchangeable humans in labs and ships and other locations where doors open by depressurizing yelling indecipherable nonsense that only detracts from the goal.

I also understand that what I’m expecting from this movie is practically impossible, though there have been giant tentpole sci-fi movies that have done this kind of thing much better in the last few years. Nevertheless, Godzilla vs. Kong is often laborious but rarely an outright bore. The action is colourful and plentiful (at some point, Kong gets his hands on a Kong-sized axe, which is definitely something that was lacking from the general Kong mythos), course-correcting from criticism that the first two Godzilla movies were dark, foggy nonsense. This is bright, foggy nonsense of the highest order: entertaining as eye candy, but rather uninspired as storytelling. ■

Godzilla vs. Kong opens in Montreal theatres and comes to VOD simultaneously on Wednesday, March 31. Watch the trailer here:

Godzilla vs. Kong, directed by Adam Wingard

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