A title like Godzilla vs. Kong is self-explanatory. And for most, that title is enough to sell them on the movie. In that respect, Godzilla vs. Kong does advertise what it promises and people who just want to see giant monster fight will probably like this fine. However, there is still more to a movie than just a title. While people might come for one thing, what’s needed is everything else falling into place. Strong direction, good pacing, a compelling world, and, yes, even solid human characters.
Godzilla vs. Kong doesn’t have any of this. Sure, there’s about 30 minutes of fun fight scenes. And while there are some decent elements outside of those fights, the majority of the remaining 2 hour runtime is forgettable at best or grating at worst. This is largely due to a cast of boring human characters who sadly are the majority of the runtime. Of course, some will cry that a kaiju movie doesn’t need compelling human drama. After all, we’re here for the cool monsters, right? In that case, one of the cool monsters sadly doesn’t have much to do, so the people who are in it for the fights will probably be bored too.
Hail to the King
The best part of the whole piece revolves entirely around the giant gorilla. The appeal of King Kong has always been the more human and emotional side, so it’s smart of director Adam Wingard to make him the heart of the movie. There’s a sadness to Kong, as he yearns to find a home and community of his own. The movie opens with him supposedly on Skull Island. Only later it is revealed he is stuck in a government base, hidden so Godzilla doesn’t know he exists. It’s a strong hook, helped by the creature’s incredible facial expressions, made possible by the immense talents of the visual effects team.
Kong’s story is further helped by If there’s one aspect of the human side that works well, it’s on Kong’s side. Rebecca Hall does well as the Kong expert, but it’s her deaf adopted daughter, played by a young Kaylee Hottle. Hottle especially has some amazing chemistry with Kong. There’s a genuine friendship between the two that is entertaining and sweet, and Hottle knows how to deliver some strong facial expressions to drive the point home.
Between the two monsters, King Kong has always been a sympathetic story, and it’s nice to see these elements still in tact. Frankly, it’s the one thing most people will remember walking out of the movie.
Of course, people are not here for the sentimental pieces. They are here for the fight scenes between the two beasts. Sure enough, Wingard does a fine job here. There’s a good sense of scale in these scenes and the way the camera focuses on these brutes gives the action solid momentum and weight. Ultimately, there is nothing too crazy or mind-blowing, but it’s serviceable enough.
The problem here is how little there is. There are only three or so major set pieces where the two titans fight each other. They’re long enough I suppose, but that is a bit of a deterrent I feel. And as said before, there’s nothing too exciting about these moments. There’s no major fighting moves, nor is there anything really creative directing-wise. Considering how underwhelming the rest of the piece is, that makes these sparse moments, that were hyped and promoted heavily, all the more disappointing. If it can’t keep the whole movie up, is it truly worth seeing?
The Human Errors
Perhaps the most grating aspect of the entire piece is the cast ensemble. While there are plenty of great actors, the actual characters are forgettable at best and repulsive at worst. The Kong side is stronger, largely thanks to Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle. At the same time, there’s also Alexander Skarsgård as the cartographer who charts the main mission. He is about as generic and forgettable as they come, with zero defining character. I honestly forgot he was even in the piece until I began writing this review.
Godzilla has the greater human focus, and, once again, there’s some forgettable figures. Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler return from the last movie, but the latter has nothing to do while Brown just exists to keep the story flowing. The CEO antagonist Walter Simmons, played by Demián Bichir, has one or two decent moments, but nothing too exciting. But by far, the worst of the bunch are Julian Dennison as the nerdy friend to Brown and Brian Tyree Henry as the conspiracy nut obsessed with monsters.
Both actors are obnoxious throughout, spouting unfunny joke after unfunny joke. They consistently break the tension and cause the film to screech to a halt. All the while, neither have a strong sense of comedic timing, making every joke plummet. It’s surprising from Henry especially, as BTH, I feel, is one of the best actors working today. It’s truly perplexing what went wrong here.
I’m sure many reading may be confused why I am complaining about this aspect when humans are far from the most developed piece of a kaiju movie. Disregarding that genre conventions should not be used from film to film, a strong human component is necessary. It gives viewers time to breathe from the monster action, develop the world, or just add more likability to the piece. And when this aspect is not only poorly-done, but takes up the majority of the film, this is a serious problem.
To Sum Up…
Sure, Godzilla vs. Kong is supposed to be a dumb, but fun movie. And there’s merit to this. But this does not excuse a poor script. This does not excuse obnoxious human characters. And frankly, excusing these elements as “dumb fun” is a disservice to quality escapist works. It’s clear Adam Wingard has a great passion for this piece and it’s obvious there is an audience for this. Yet by the time this wraps up, I’ll forget most of it. And frankly, a title that insane deserves a more memorable work.
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