9 April 2021
Freddy vs Jason. Alien vs Predator. O.J vs The People.
Crossover feuds are without exception, rad. The clash of two icons is a rich opportunity for creative storytelling- usually complicated by the fact that one of the parties is wildly overqualified for the fight, often as a result of supernatural abilities.
Godzilla vs Kong embodies this dilemma. Kong, or “King” Kong to give him his full title, is a (very) big ape. Godzilla literally breathes radioactive flames. The writers take the obvious route to give Kong a fighting chance- the appearance of a magical axe. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The film opens on Kong magnificently swinging through his viridescent jungle home of Skull Island. Except, psych!- he’s actually in a big computer-generated cage. Why? I don’t have a clue. I’ve seen both prequels, ‘Kong: Skull Island’, and ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’, but it seems like I missed some major plot developments. There’s also now a corporation whose clandestine experiments goad Godzilla into rising out of the sea and rampaging through the city in a deviation from his previously peaceful, sea-dwelling behaviour. This leads Millie Bobby Brown, the kiwi kid from ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’, and a conspiracy podcaster to investigate the nefarious corporation, while Kong and his scientist offsider/captor journey to Godzilla’s stomping ground in an effort to bring him down.
In all honesty, this film is pretty hard to follow, which is not something I expected to say about ‘Godzilla vs Kong’. It’s also tonally all over the place, probably in a compromise between the goofiness of ‘Kong: Skull Island’ and the dour recent Godzilla films.
Having said this, the fight scenes are extra, and Kong and Godzilla look fantastic (they’re just crazy big). Both monsters are scary yet still humanised (as much as a giant ape and radioactive lizard can be humanised). Incomprehensibly, the protagonists are ultimately hailed as gentle giants despite carelessly killing thousands with impunity. But then, a little collateral damage is to be expected in a three way smackdown with a giant robotic dinosaur gone rogue.
I wanted to love this. But at the end of the day, it entertained me. It didn’t thrill me. Despite some epic and enjoyably ridiculous scenes it didn’t live up to its title- but then, what would? It didn’t make me laugh the way that ‘Kong: Skull Island’ did, and it didn’t make me believe in Godzilla in the manner of the 1998 Matthew Broderick-led ‘Godzilla’. That’s not hyperbole, by the way. At the age of eight I literally believed that the citizens of Tokyo lived through a giant lizard attack. I thought it was a historical event like Pearl Harbour.
But maybe I’m being unfair. Halfway through the film I went to the toilet and apparently missed a scene in which Kong rips the head off a giant lizard and drinks its blood. For this, I’ll award an extra star.
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