Every ecosystem has its own hierarchy to consider—a fundamental rule that has held true since the inception of our biosphere. When reduced to our basest instincts, we are seemingly locked in an eternal cycle of predator and prey. And no matter which creatures partake in this deadly dance of life and death, one thing’s for certainㅡthere can only be one alpha on top.
Adam Wingard’s ambitious Godzilla vs. Kong is precariously built on our curious fascination with adrenaline-fueled CGI-rendered popcorn flicks, and yes, the nostalgic pull of seeing beloved childhood icons make things go boom. Occurring after the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island, with each movie telling the story of each titan, one would expect the highly-anticipated sequel to have a more complex and intriguing story—unfortunately, the film fails to live up to the hype of capturing the full glory of the two mythic titans on screen.
Who bows to whom?
The movie certainly does not shy away from flexing its CGI muscles, so to speak, with Godzilla appearing within the first 15 minutes of the film. Indeed, the movie cannot be faulted for its special effects, which made each altercation between the two titans absolutely thrilling and more than capable of keeping the audience at the edge of their seats. The appearances and movements of both Kong and Godzilla were perfectly executed, allowing the suspension of disbelief at the existence of these monsters to flawlessly wash over the moviegoers. Every element, down to the last hair on Kong and the last scale on Godzilla, is meticulously detailed, leaving no room for doubt that most of the $160-million budget was well-spent.
The titans are well-complemented by the stellar cast, with a few notable names such as Millie Bobby Brown and Alexander Skarsgård found in the fray. However, the heart of the film is nine-year old newcomer, Kaylee Hottle. Playing a deaf indigenous little girl bearing a strong connection to Kong, Hottle is simply marvelous in her role, making it hard to believe that she was signing only to a green screen, instead of a real 150-foot giant ape.
All about patterns and variables
To its credit, Godzilla vs. Kong does make a heroic effort to integrate various storylines and arcs into the plot. However, theories were haphazardly being injected left and right and too many questions were left unanswered. Lost in the spectacle, Wingard must have forgotten that a movie that shows too much, ends up telling so little.
But we also have to face the music—nobody watches a monsterverse movie for the plot. The audience is there for the grit and action, for the promised titan versus titan fights in all of their raw glory. With this being said, fans of both the Godzilla and Kong franchises who have appropriately lowered their expectations may still be severely disappointed at the lack of effort placed into the cohesiveness and fluidity of the storytelling.
The events that occur in between the titan domination scenes are forgettable and seem to have been tacked on as an afterthought in a crude attempt to explain why the events are happening the way that they are. The action is present, but the sufficient rhyme and reason behind it are not, taking away the rich lore that stands behind each titan authority. With these boring lulls all over the runtime, you can even go for bathroom breaks and not miss anything important.
The entire movie’s premise also begs the question, what can a giant gorilla do against a death-ray breathing, spiked-tail wielding, sharp-toothed dinosaur? The flick tries valiantly to prove that Kong does have a fighting chance against Godzilla, albeit at the expense of an unpredictable plot. It dips left and right into overused clichés, most especially when à la Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Kong finds a convenient deus ex machina weapon to up the ante—a move that may leave some audience members rolling their eyes in incredulity.
Moreover, for a film that is supposedly about two large and famous titans, it seems to have only done justice to one. The film itself is Kong-centric, with most of the movie revolving around the giant gorilla, seemingly swaying the audience onto Kong’s side. Godzilla’s appearances only occur when the two are about to fight or when he is about to decimate an entire city full of people, decreasing the screen time for the behemoth.
Surprisingly, the movie’s bad moves don’t end there. The integration of Mechagodzilla’s storyline was hastily tacked on in a failing attempt to show that the real villain is not the monsters—no, it’s the humans. Although it is an appropriate thought process, the Mechagodzilla arc was predictably used to have Godzilla and Kong team up together, leaving behind the cliché conclusion that both monsters can actually coexist together, despite the entire movie hinging on the fact that they cannot.
Brains off, hearts thumping
Some key advice: if you’re planning to watch the movie, try not to think about it too much. As is recurrent with the monsterverse movies, the more time you spend mulling on it, the more it falls apart. Thus, the average moviegoer would need to take this movie at face value and appreciate it for what it isㅡa monster versus monster movie with cool effects and beautiful animation; nothing more, nothing less.
Although it might be perceived as a disappointment to the titans’ fans, it could be an enjoyable watch to those unfamiliar with the surrounding lore. The movie, if anything, does its job quite well in serving as a conveniently-there action-packed film that you can watch with your brain turned off.