With a title like Godzilla vs. Kong, I’m sure most of us are expecting the director — in this case, Adam Wingard — to give us what we came here for. And that is more monster smackdown and less human drama. Around two years ago, Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters gave the iconic kaiju monster itself bigger screentime and even introduced others including Mothra, King Ghidorah and Rodan. While that movie packed plenty of epic action sequences, Godzilla: King of the Monsters didn’t exactly fulfil its overall potential due to Dougherty’s ill-advised choice of shooting the action mostly in the dark or dimly-lit environments.
Now, with Adam Wingard taking over the director’s chair for the fourth film in the MonsterVerse franchise, Godzilla vs. Kong marks his first big-budget Hollywood project yet. Besides, his previous directing credits were all low- or mid-budget genre films, as evidently seen in the likes of You’re Next (2013), The Guest (2014) and Netflix’s Death Note (2017).
Well, the good news is, Wingard proves to be the right director for the job. He clearly knows what the fans and audiences alike want and for that, he delivers. Clocking at just under 2 hours long, Godzilla vs. Kong doesn’t waste much time setting up the tone, where we learn about Godzilla behaving a whole lot different this time around. Sensing something’s not right, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) along with her friend, Josh (Julian Dennison) and conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), who works as a technician at Apex Cybernetics, decide to find out the truth behind Godzilla’s so-called random attack.
The movie also involved Kong, who is later transported from the Skull Island-like facility to Hollow Earth in search of his true home. En route, Kong crosses paths with Godzilla, which sets the stage for the battle between these two alpha titans. Joining the mission includes Dr Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), Dr Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a deaf little girl who somehow has a special bond with Kong.
Unlike the previous Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Wingard, working from Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein’s screenplay, does a good job making the human drama tolerable without overwhelming the storyline. Even the returning characters, notably Millie Bobby Brown is thankfully not the annoyingly overwrought character we last seen her in the previous Godzilla movie. Kyle Chandler, however, is reduced to a smaller role. Elsewhere, Wingard’s uses of two oldies in both opening (Bobby Vinton’s “Over the Mountain, Across the Sea”) and closing (The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe”) scenes feel somewhat out of place.
As for the newcomers to the MonsterVerse franchise, I was initially worried about Alexander Skarsgard being miscast for the role of a geologist. But it turns out that Skarsgard isn’t as bad as I thought he would be. The rest including Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle, who made her first acting debut both deliver decent supports in their respective roles.
Technically speaking, this is where Godzilla vs. Kong excels the most. Special effects are top-notch and visually spectacular, with the first epic battle between Godzilla and Kong on the aircraft carrier and in the ocean truly showcases Wingard’s impressive technical know-how and has a keen eye for visceral and large-scale setpieces. And most of all, the fight scene isn’t just epic but also gave me goosebumps — something that was sorely missed in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Not to mention the fight scene has better clarity with none of those hard-to-decipher visuals seen in the last movie. No doubt that watching this on IMAX makes the cinematic experience all the more worthwhile.
The Hollow Earth sequence is worth mentioning too, where Wingard brings a surrealistic quality to the overall visuals. Then, there’s the final third-act where Wingard goes all out with the titanic battle between Godzilla and Kong in the middle of Hong Kong city. His location choice of utilising Hong Kong as the battleground for these two titans is an inspiring one, with the sight of the city’s neon signs helps to give the scene a distinctive visual flair.
At times like this where (most) people nowadays prefer to stream movies online at home, Wingard gave us a good reason that a movie like Godzilla vs. Kong is meant to be experienced in the cinema. So, do yourself a favour and watch Godzilla vs. Kong on the biggest screen possible.