“There can't be two Alpha Titans” – Ilene Andrews
Since the closure of cinemas, I’ve often lamented my trips to the multiplex, but I’ve largely contented myself with seeing first run films on my home screen We take what we can get in these strange days, right? Kong vs Godzilla is the first time I’ve really felt cheated not seeing the film on a bigger screen, with an audience. It’s also the first time I’ve had wishful thoughts about seeing a film perhaps in 3D – I’m not even sure it was intended for that format, but there are a few scenes, I’d have been happy to don the glasses for (They’re still waiting patiently in the glove box in the car – ready for their next outing.) I can only imagine the majesty and the impact of seeing these two behemoths clash. Had I been able to see the film on an IMAX screen, my mind would’ve been blown.
Kaiju (That’s giant monster in Japanese) films are the Marmite of the film industry. In my experience, you either love them, or hate them. If you hate them, you’ll never understand them. If you love them, you’ll forgive them anything – even Gamera, the giant radioactive flame throwing turtle. So, if you’re in the pro-Kaiju group – you’re going to love it. If you’re not – stay away, and keep your streaming rental fee in your pocket, you’ll be a lot happier for it.
Myself, I came away from this film feeling that it’s a real tonic. It’s just the kind of totally escapist entertainment that the world needs to help shrug the woes and worries of the global pandemic and the ensuing lockdown for a couple of hours. Weta Digital, ILM and the other visual effects companies seem to have taken a definite next step in the world of CGI, because this is visually stunning to a degree I don’t believe I’ve seen before.
Plot wise – well, let’s get real here, we don’t REALLY go to see these movies for a deep and meaningful plot or nuance, do we? Or character development. We watch them to see giant monsters go to battle with each other and while beating the holy hell out of each other, destroy at least one major city. We get that battle in spades, along with a major surprise (No spoilers though) But there’s a fairly decent script as well. Win-win.
First off, let’s clear one thing. This isn’t a follow up to the 1933 King Kong, the 1977 remake or the Peter Jackson version of 2005. It’s not a remake of the Toho King Kong Vs Godzilla (1963). It follows the continuity set in Legendary Pictures, so it’s the Kong We met in Kong: Skull Island (2017) and was carried on the last two Godzilla films. So, it’s set five years after Godzilla: King of the Monsters, where Godzilla defeated King Ghidorah and wandered back out to sea. Kong, in the meantime, is being observed on his Skull Island habitat. All is peaceful, until Godzilla makes landfall unexpectedly in Pensacola, Florida and attacks the facility of Apex Cybernetics. Meanwhile, Kong also is becoming disturbed and restless.
We therefore have two separate plot lines, one involving Godzilla’s sudden inexplicable attacks, the mysterious and let’s be honest, nefarious goings on at Apex Cybernetics and investigating if they’re connected. The other follows the team on a quest to prove the theory that there is an immense energy source in a hollow area under the Earth’s crust, possibly where these giant creatures originated. They reason that Kong will be able to lead them back to his ancestral birthplace and the source of unimaginable energy. Both plotlines converge – but that’s not a spoiler, that’s given away right there in the title.
Returning in the role of high school student and kind of a protector of Godzilla is Millie Bobby Brown who headlined the recent Enola Holmes film showing on Netflix, and of course Stranger Things. Joining her are Bernie Heyes (Brian Tyree Henry), a conspiracy theorist and hacker Josh Valentine played by Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2) in trying to figure out what’s happening at Apex that’s got Godzilla so worked up.
Kong is supported by child actress Kaylee Hottle as a young, deaf native orphan who has a special bond with Kong, to the point of teaching him the rudiments of sign language. She teams up with Alexander Skarsgard playing a geologist and cartographer and Rebecca Hall as anthropologist Ilene Andrews, her adoptive mother.
The plotlines converge, as one would reasonably expect and we’re on a level surpassing Pacific Rim as far as Kaiju-led property damage is concerned. Both out at sea and levelling Hong Kong. (I must add, a strangely empty appearing Hong Kong – at least I hope it was empty, otherwise the death toll would be in the hundreds of thousands.
Visually, these battles are amazing. We can plainly see that Kong isn’t above fighting dirty. And unsurprisingly, this is where the film really soars. It becomes quickly apparent that the days of two Japanese performers carrying out a professional wrestling choreographed series of moves on each other, within the limitations of the heavy rubber monster suits, as per the traditional Kaiju films are well and truly over. This is a nasty, no holds barred battle for dominance against two titans who have been pitched in battle before, several millennia ago. They’re natural enemies. They instinctively hate each other, pretty much like a mongoose and a cobra.
It’s impressive not only seeing Kong jump from battleship to battleship in pursuit of his enemy, but also the sheer animalistic, feral way they do battle. His fighting technique, as well as his other mannerisms are completely believable. Even his morning “routine” as we see at the beginning of the film.
To its credit, this is an action-packed film from start to finish – no time is wasted, and we’ve seen Godzilla films in the past where we have to wait until the third quarter to even catch a glimpse of the big, clumsy, radiation spouting one. I paid my money, and I didn’t come away disappointed. In fact, considering the big reveal, I got more than my money’s worth.
No sting on this one during the credits, sadly – so no hint of what’s to come, if they go ahead and make more of these films. If the multiplexes open in a few weeks and this one makes an appearance on the big screen – I’m definitely seeing it on the biggest screen I can get to.
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