'Godzilla vs. Kong' Brings Human Empathy to the Usual Skyscraper Smashing Directed by Adam Wingard
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison
Published Mar 30, 2021Near the beginning of Godzilla vs. Kong, Kyle Chandler remarks, with all the gravitas he can muster, "Godzilla is out there hurting people, and we don't know why." While there is a story reason for this that is revealed soon enough, there is also a meta reason, intended only for the audience: it's because it's awesome.
That's basically the spirit behind the latest entry in the MonsterVerse, which promises a knockdown, drag-out brawl between the King of the Monsters and King Kong. Each of the big boys gets their time to shine, although Kong is the one with an arc, such as it is.
His relationship with deaf Skull Island orphan Jia (Kaylee Hottle) is a much more engaging and dynamic version of whatever Millie Bobby Brown had going on with Godzilla in the previous entry. Her ability to sense his heartbeat keys us in to the giant ape's state of mind in between the city-smashing. It's a testament to Hottle, Kong performer Terry Notary and the VFX team at WETA Digital that this is a genuinely compelling human element in a movie that knows whatever human-involved drama is ultimately perfunctory compared to the main event.
On the human front, new-to-the-franchise director Adam Wingard injects much more humour into the proceedings, mostly via Brian Tyree Henry's podcasting muckraker. This has the effect of making the by-the-numbers machinations of evil corporations at least more bearable compared to the divorced dad energy of King of the Monsters.
That being said, your tolerance for the foibles of any of these puny humans has likely already been set in stone four movies in. It can make for a not-insignificant amount of cringe when some of the jokes don't land, but then, well, Kong slams Godzilla's face into a skyscraper and you tend to just forget about that sort of thing. That, plus the giddy needle drops — which are one of Adam Wingard's directorial quirks — help its (too many) characters and (overstuffed) plot get to where it needs to be.
And when it does, it's glorious. The monkey/lizard fights are tightly edited, lively, and most important, the audience can actually see them, The neon of the Hong Kong-set finale goes a long way in spicing up the kaiju punching, in which each of the titular titans' strengths and weaknesses is clearly laid out.
The only real missed opportunity is that they don't kiss, although they do roar intensely in each other's faces. Maybe they'll save it for the next one. Every sequel needs to up the stakes after all. (Warner Bros.)