Godzilla vs. Kong

 

star



The biggest movie of the year – to date – flexes its CGI muscles to a point of severe 

indigestion.

 
Godzilla vs. Kong

IMAX to the max

 

For movie buffs distraught by the twelve-month delay of Jurassic World: Dominion, help is at hand. In spite of the pandemic, Warner Bros. has seen fit to release its $200m monster epic simultaneously in some hardtop outlets and on their streaming platform HBO Max. Which seems a terrible error. If any film deserves to be seen on the big screen, IMAX and the like, it is Godzilla vs. Kong, perhaps the biggest movie ever made. If one is into big, of course. But the trouble with big is that it can be so massively huge that it obliterates any human perspective, so that it’s merely gargantuan for the sake of it. All bang and no emotional currency. For those who can, catch it at a cinema in Beijing or New York.

 

In fact, Godzilla vs. Kong is so enormous that it is not just a sequel to the humungous Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), but to Kong: Skull Island (2017) as well: two giants for your buck. It has always seemed easier to identify with Kong, as he’s closer to us in the food chain, while Godzilla lives on the bottom of the sea, is covered with scales and has halitosis like nobody’s business. In a valiant attempt to blur the line between good and evil, Godzilla has been given an ambiguous makeover, so that we forgive him for destroying large swathes of Hong Kong real estate. If Hong Kong hasn’t had enough trouble of late, it has now been earmarked as the gladiatorial arena in a mammoth battle of egos, testosterone and confusion. This on its own would be fine, except for the fluctuating dimensions of the two beasts. Back in the day (1933), the sight of King Kong clinging to the top of the Empire State Building became as iconic an image as the Washington Monument. Now he is pitted against Godzilla, who can submerge an entire US Navy fleet with the flick of his tail. Still, with the legerdemain of current CGI, anything is possible: except, of course, an iota of credibility.

 

Adam Wingard's Godzilla vs. Kong starts with a swing, as Kong wakes up from a deep sleep and, to the accompaniment of Bobby Vinton’s ‘Over the Mountain; Across the Sea’ yawns, stretches, scratches his bottom, takes a shower under a waterfall and greets another day in Paradise (aka Skull Island). He also has a quiet moment of communion with the adorable Jia (eight-year-old deaf actress Kaylee Hottle), an indigenous orphan of the island. At the moment it’s all the rage for big Hollywood films to feature young mute girls, as witnessed in The Midnight Sky and News of the World. Indeed, Kaylee Hottle is about the only satisfying element in this strident cacophony of computer effects. There are good actors galore, but with barely time to register a look of horror or mutter a platitude, their drama school training would appear to be for nought. Only Oscar nominee Demián Bichir – as your standard-issue, liquor-swilling egomaniacal billionaire – has a decent line in the din of pyrotechnics. When he meets unconventional geologist-cum-cartographer Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), he smirks: “I love crazy ideas. They make me rich.” Otherwise the dialogue is reduced to such inanities as “What the hell is that?” and “Wow”.

 

But back to Kong. After his morning ablutions, the ape fashions a spear from a large tree and hurls it at the sky, where it breaks through the artificial canopy and lodges in a gantry. It’s a neat Truman Show moment - and is all downhill from there. What follows is a convoluted story involving a myriad of disposable characters where nefarious scientists and members of the military decide to pit Kong against Godzilla, as the latter seems to have turned nasty. But has he? And can Kong overcome the giant reptile’s fiery halitosis? Do we care? Frankly, it’s a mess, my dear, a nonsensical firework display of testosteronic braggadocio and about as sexy as a glorified dog fight. Whereas the Jurassic Park films are imbued with a basic logic – and even a degree of human credibility – Godzilla vs. Kong courts quantum physics and a video game aesthetic with the finesse of a bad peyote trip. At the time of writing, Jurassic World: Dominion is due to open June 10.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Lance Reddick, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Kaylee Hottle.

 

Dir Adam Wingard, Pro Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Brian Rogers, Mary Parent. Alex Garcia and Eric McLeod, Screenplay Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, from a 'story' by Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields, Ph Ben Seresin, Pro Des Thomas S. Hammock and Owen Paterson, Ed Josh Schaeffer, Music Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL), Costumes Ann Foley, Sound Jason W. Jennings, Creature designer Tom Woodruff Jr, Dialect coach Gabrielle Rogers.

 

Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.-Warner Bros.

113 mins. USA/Australia/Canada/India. 2021. Rel: 1 April 2021. Cert. 12A.