One of thing most annoying things for me about the pandemic has been the closure of cinemas. Don’t get me wrong, certain films are great to watch at home, and there are quite a few where the location doesn’t matter. But there are some where you NEED to watch them at the cinema. You need the big screen, the darkness, the pageantry of the cinema experience. Some films I was looking forward to, I have watched them at home and still liked them (The Mitchells Vs. The Machines etc). But this? I avoided this at home because I knew I NEEDED to see it at the cinema. I’m not watching these films for the plots and the dialogue, I’m watching them because they’re spectacle, and it’s harder to get immersed in spectacle cinema when you have to change the volume so it can be heard over building work, you are aware of daylight, or there’s a cat clawing at your bedroom door because they’re desperate for attention.
A big worry for me coming into this was how overpowered Godzilla was compared to Kong. The film rectifies this by making it so Kong is older and much larger than the last time we saw him. On the upside that means the sizes match up. On the downside, and I’m not entirely sure if it was deliberate or not, but Kong looks old. This isn’t Kong as Rocky, this is Kong as Rocky in Creed, he looks exhausted.
Now onto the scale, there are a few moments where we truly get to see how massive Kong and Godzilla (referred to in this movie as Titans) really are, you place them alongside humans and it provides an impressive visual. You don’t really get the same effect when they’re next to buildings for some reason. It might be because during these moments they’re filmed from an angle that’s high and wide so you can get the entire fight in. But this means you lose all sense of scale, the Titans become your measurement for height, because the buildings they’re fighting amongst get destroyed so quickly that they’re ineffective for measurement sake. So having them tower over buildings doesn’t make the Titans look big, it makes the building look small. This film DESPERATELY needed more low angle shots of the fights.
Other than that, the fights themselves are actually pretty damn entertaining. You know what you’re getting in a film like this, you’re not going to get a John Wick style action scene, you’re just going to get two mountains smashing into each other, and that’s what you get. I will say this, the punches look like they hurt. It’s not like Transformers where it looks like interchangeable things just banging against each other, you feel the pain every time one of these monsters is hit.
Praise also has to go to the moment where they enter Hollow Earth, which they need a map to find, because going straight down isn’t an option for some reason (although later in the film Godzilla finds it just by fire-digging straight through the floor, so it’s inconsistent). A world where it’s basically the inside of a circle and the world is round, but inverted. So you’re always on the floor and gravity changes depending which side of the ball you’re on. It contains truly impressive visuals and would lend itself to some truly inventive action set pieces, if they spent more time in it. See, that moment is just for about 20 minutes. They genuinely could have got an entire film out of that. There’s no way that was cheap, so it’s baffling to think they spent that much on something so small when it could have been the basis of something much bigger. It does lead to a cool moment of Kong sitting on a throne, but then the film continues. Surely the entire Hollow Earth sub-plot should have been it’s own movie, and then you end the film with Kong sitting on the throne? You don’t throw all of that into the middle of this, it’s an incredibly poor choice from a narrative standpoint. Especially since Godzilla HEAVILY dominates this franchise, this is the 4th movie with him in, but only the second Kong. If they did the second Kong movie set in Hollow Earth, then THAT sets off the events of this film, it would feel more even. And you wouldn’t have so many characters to introduce. The last Kong film was set far in the past, so this features no characters from that. There are two returning Godzilla characters that I can recognise, there might have been more, but the characters from those films have left zero impact on me with the exceptions of the two in this, and 3 others who I think are dead I can’t remember.
That’s not the only negative. Nobody watches these for the human characters, but we spend so much time with them that they should be written well. There are some amusing lines with one of the subplots, but they don’t feel natural. It feels like they wrote the jokes and then did the story to fit them in (it definitely seems like they did that with some of the other scenes too). It never feels natural, is incredibly overwritten, plus having that many comedic moments means you never feel scared. There are two (well, three at the end) giant beings beating the crap out of each other and not caring about the collateral damage to humans. That should be utterly TERRIFYING to the human characters, but they don’t seem that bothered by it. They seem more focused on “but what if the monsters get hurt?”
As you can probably guess, the script is pretty poor. Managing to feel both bloated and rushed at the same time. The hollow earth scenes I mentioned? Guess how they impact the script? It’s how they get the power for Mecha Godzilla. Yup, a good chunk of the film is essentially “we’re picking up a battery”. That takes up a good two thirds of the film. I’m not saying open the film with Mecha Godzilla (oh yeah, that’s the main non-human villain btw, for one scene), but at least have it so it seems like the script is naturally building towards it, hint towards it instead of it just being there.
So in summary: watch this at the cinema, you will only watch it for the visuals anyway. Although I should note, the visuals aren’t always great. During action scenes they look fine, but when people are just talking? The visuals look kind of ugly a lot of the times there. It’s weird.