After a year of tumultuous politics, the pandemic, and postponed blockbusters, it’s a blessedly simple joy to watch Godzilla and Kong hammer the living shit out of each other. Directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next, Blair Witch), this fourth movie in Legendary’s MonsterVerse series doesn’t embrace the beasts’ roots in the horror genre, as you might expect, but rather serves up a family blockbuster.
In place of Godzilla: King Of The Monsters’ dark, rain-lashed visuals are blue afternoon skies and sunsets of burning orange. Meanwhile, a climactic, neon-drenched Hong Kong showdown might have been directed by Daft Punk.
Wingard, lest we forget, also directed ’80s-soaked thriller The Guest, and Godzilla Vs. Kong is a bit like that film, if Maika Monroe and Dan Stevens were both 300ft tall. The carnage starts when the Big G, established as the planet’s protector in 2019’s King Of The Monsters, emerges from the ocean to attack Apex Industries.
Given that this tech company ran by billionaire Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) is all about maintaining balance between humans and Titans, the attack establishes Godzilla as a bit of a heel (he always did have a habit of switching sides in the Toho Studios movies). What’s more, he’s heading towards the Monarch facility that acts as Kong’s new home, spurring Rebecca Hall’s Dr. Ilene Andrews and Alexander Skarsgård’s handsome geologist Nathan Lind into frantically transporting Kong to safety. No such luck…
None of the characters under 6ft – or 6ft 5in, in Skarsgård’s case – quite hold the attention, and there are a fair few of them scurrying about. One subplot sees Dr. Andrews’ adopted daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), communicating with Kong via sign language, while another involves conspiracy theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) teaming up with teens Madison (a returning Millie Bobby Brown) and Josh (Hunt For The Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison) for a Goonies-esque adventure that never quite gets going. But that’s all forgotten when the Titans clash, with the star of Kong: Skull Island having grown from the adolescent he was then, in the 1970s, into a grizzled gorilla so enormous he’s now a match for his atomic-breathing foe.
OK, so the bright lighting robs the VFX of heft, and the structure of Godzilla and Kong’s relationship is entirely predictable. But watching these famous monsters share the screen for the first time since 1963’s King Kong Vs. Godzilla, in a series of expertly choreographed battles, packs real wallop, even if you can’t help wishing that screen was 30ft high at your local cinema.