We have come a long way from that moving and bittersweet 1933 story of a giant ape stolen from his home and set loose, panicked and confused, in an unfamiliar and unforgiving urban environment. Gone is the anti-colonialism/pro-environment allegory, the romance and the lyricism and what we are left with is the limited treats that can be garnered from seeing oversized creatures kicking the crap out of each other. It wasn’t beauty killed the beast, it was lazy commercialism.
To be fair this isn’t new; King Kong and Godzilla, the two behemoths of classic monster cinema, were pitched against each other for the simple spectacle of it as early as 1963 in King Kong vs. Godzilla, a film with a very similar title to this one. Obviously the names are the other way around here which I can only assume is down to extensive agent negotiations. It should also be noted that this movie is a lot better than that one; any of the Kong films that have had the main monkey represented by a man in a gorilla suit have failed horribly. The visual effects here may not be as ground breaking as those from the Fay Wray original but they are very impressive.
Also, there have been some efforts to add more layers to this story in recent times. Kong: Skull Island, the previous King Kong film in this run, had a nice Vietnam War metaphor running through it and is the best of these four connected movies that started with Gareth Edwards Godzilla in 2014. Edwards’ film was a worse film than this one too and such a disappointment after his similarly themed Monsters from four years previously.
None of the cast from 2014’s Godzilla or 2017’s Kong: Skull Island have stayed with the franchise but there are two hangers on from Godzilla: King of Monsters that came out in 2019 in the shape of a wasted Millie Bobby Brown and a barely registering Kyle Chandler. To be honest all of the extensive cast, that includes Alexander Skarsgård, Brian Tyree Henry, Julian Dennison, Eiza González and Rebecca Hall are wasted or barely register despite a lot of effort being made to keep up with their multiple subplots. I was sure Rebecca Hall had been in these films before but I realised that I was mixing her up with Sally Hawkins which tells you a lot since these are normally two of the most distinguished and distinctive supporting actors from British cinema. Sadly, after her well developed role in I Care a Lot, González has been reduced to being that pretty woman from those handful of scenes again. It is still good to see Julian Dennison again though; Ricky Baker saves the world in this film.
It is a shame that none of the creatives behind Godzilla vs. Kong thought to make much of the humans in the movie, thinking presumably that the only really important thing was the scenes of the famous colossi doing battle. Fortunately, while relatively rare, the scenes of the famous colossi doing battle are kind of great. I mean there is no consideration for the huge loss of civilian life as buildings and ships are torn up and there is no apparent reason why these guys are fighting (something to do with a failed business venture perhaps or maybe it is over a woman) but it’s fun to watch if you don’t think about it too much.
I can’t say hand on heart that Godzilla vs. Kong is a good movie but I did enjoy it. If you are in the right mood and if you are itching to see something big and loud on a big screen (if you’ve got one – this is obviously only available for home viewing here in the UK but forty five days and counting down) then grab a beer and go for it.