By Ben Glennan, Third Year, Ancient History
Cinemas have been open for about a week now. The smell of popcorn is beginning to permeate, that sticky floor layer is forming in its infancy and Poundland stock is about to skyrocket off the back of confectionary sales. The only setback now is deciding which film to relapse with. If you were not one of the mad addicts who have booked out Watershed for the next ten years, then Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) might scratch that blockbuster itch that your pathetic TV box could only dream of doing justice.
The fourth instalment in Legendary Entertainment’s ‘MonsterVerse’ franchise, this latest kaiju clash sees the greatest movie monsters of all time share the screen for the first time in almost sixty years. It’s big, loud, stupid and for the most part, lives up to the promise that these two names bring, but ultimately is a step down compared to recent ‘MonsterVerse’ offerings.
The film is entirely plot driven; unfortunately, the plots of these films have become less and less engaging with each new entry. Cybernetics superpower APEX is on the hunt for a new power source residing deep in the hollow earth, first touched upon with Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). We can only assume it’s for a noble humanitarian cause, when have cybernetics companies in film ever been anything but. Meanwhile, for reasons unknown, the previously peaceful Godzilla is tearing up APEX facilities at an alarming rate. Kong, along with his human handlers is enlisted to lead the expedition to the hollow earth before Godzilla seemingly stomps out every major city on Earth.
After all of two minutes the constant exposition and gratingly irritating characters, you start pining for monkey on lizard action, which luckily there is a decent helping of throughout the film. Admittedly, you don’t exactly come to these films for the emotional through lines, on the whole Godzilla vs. Kong is exactly what you’d expect. Plus, director Adam Wingard promises a definitive winner in the showdown so you can get excited whether you’re Team Kong or Team Zilla.
The criticism aimed at these films is almost always the same. More monster, less boring human. While that’s not a stance I would always agree with, you’d think studios would have listened by now. The Godzilla focused trio of Milly Bobby Brown, Bryan Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison are by far the most annoying and unnecessary part of the film. The sequence of events that brings them together and where they end up is the most preposterous and convenient nonsense I’ve seen in a good while. It almost works in so much as the more time spent with them, the happier I am when they’re not on screen. Ultimately, it would have been to the films benefit had they been cut entirely.
When it comes to Godzilla films, or monster movies in general there seems to be two paths that the film can follow. Either you double down and just focus on the big beasties battling it out, or you try to create some semblance of an engaging narrative which often relies on the treatment of the more human side of things. This is displayed well with Godzilla (2014), a slower paced disaster film with fewer but more impactful Gojira appearances. Compared to Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) which did away with the mystery and focused more on the monster battles. Both are fantastic in their own way.
Godzilla vs. Kong is certainly more aligned with King of the Monsters but fails in a key area compared to that and previous monster films. The money shot. The moment or moments that you come out of the theatre saying, “did you see that?!” A monster movie worth its salt must have them. In Godzilla it was the first use of atomic breath. King of the Monsters had plenty, ‘Burning’ Godzilla, Mothra hatching etc. Ask someone what they remember about King Kong (2005). Chances are they say the T-Rex fight and that poor hungry dinosaur getting his jaw snapped. Godzilla vs. Kong never really builds all the way to those sweet few seconds that make you actually think “woah”. I would take the ‘Who Will Know’ scene in Shin Godzilla (2016) over the entirety of this film.
Having said that, Godzilla vs. Kong is a great film to return to the cinema with. The sort of film which genuinely does benefit from being seen in theatres. In fact, it’s advisable to seek out the largest screen you can. While it may not quite live up to previous films in the franchise, it should still satisfy your mindless blockbuster needs.
Have you been back to the cinemas since they reopened?