dir. Adam Wingard.
Back in 2014, Gareth Edwards – in what would become the first chapter of Legendary’s MonsterVerse – delivered a carefully calibrated reintroduction to the world of Godzilla, one which often only hinted at the creatures and put the human cost up front and centre. Three films later and Adam Wingard begins his mashup with a scene of Kong scratching his ass. Make of that what you will, but it underscores the franchise has evolved into a different kind of beast.
It’s not just the broad humour that signals a dramatic shift in tone, but plot wise Godzilla vs. Kong is full-on crackpot nuttiness. Broadly following on from Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Skull Island and Michael Dougherty’s King of the Monsters (though having seen any of the above is not required) Wingard’s movie opens five years later, Kong now a towering adult confined by a Monarch containment field: it’s kept the super ape at bay whilst neatly explaining how he avoided becoming embroiled in the previous film’s royal rumble between the G-man and King Ghidorah et al. But when Godzilla resurfaces to strike down the development lab of tech giant Apex Cybernetics the company uses Kong to try and locate a mysterious power source, a move which invariably sets the two titans on a course for collision. Such a synopsis may seem fairly pedestrian by CGI tent-pole standards – certainly for any film featuring a massive monkey punching a sky-scraping lizard – but there are twists which won’t be covered here for sake of spoilers that are so gonzo they literally overlap with Iron Sky – The Coming Race.
Things get worse with the characterisation, one key player being a crazed conspiracy theorist: GvK was in development long before Covid, but now – along with the proliferation of QAnon, deep state and anti-vax speculation – having one of your heroes as a wild-eyed believer feels deeply misguided. There are further issues across the board with great performers – Rebecca Hall, Kyle Chandler, Eiza González, Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison – all wasted with a lack lustre script whilst the city-levelling monster scraps feel weightless and dull.
It didn’t have to be this way. Kaiju movies at their best can be both spectacular and profound – whether processing national trauma (Godzilla ‘54), feminist revenge parables (Mothra) or gut-punching mediations on grief (Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris) – but sadly the MonsterVerse has consistently struggled to get into second-gear. Wingard too has form as a director, You’re Next and The Guest showing his aptitude for thrilling genre fare: but on the basis of this and the under-whelming Blair Witch he perhaps works better at the fringes of the mainstream.
With the last two movies proving a bust – and more plans for the MonsterVerse in the works – it feels like the big guy has lost his soul: here’s keeping our radioactive talons crossed that he can rediscover it soon.