When the 2014’s Godzilla reboot was first announced, the hype and anticipation, and a little trepidation, was overwhelming. Sci-fi and monster fans needed something fresh to bleach everyone’s collective memories of the horrendous 1998 version that basically tore things up and left things in ruins way more than Godzilla itself did.
Perhaps it was in learning from its earlier mistake, or maybe it had to do with not underestimating its audience, but the second attempt at putting Japan’s favourite destroyer on America’s big-screen not only turned out better, but it also became Legendary’s attempt at a shared universe, with 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, into what we would now refer to as the MonsterVerse, Warner Bros and Legendary’s own shared fictional universe, much like the beloved cinematic universe Marvel set the gold standard for.
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But rather than rush into things like how Warner tackled its DC Comics Extended Universe of superheroes movies, Legendary and Warners took their time. Instead of following up on Kong: Skull Island, which was surprisingly well received and was praised for its stunning visual effects, the third movie in the MonsterVerse was the sequel, Godzilla: King of Monsters, which showed more of the monster in action.
Alas, that film proved to be a disappointment, as it traded its narratives for visual splendour, showcasing the monster, but not the human elements. Sadly, compelling storylines still haven’t taken centre stage with Godzilla vs. Kong, even if this little titanic brawl is a spectacular battle that is worth the price of admission in itself.
Godzilla vs. Kong disappoints us with its unconvincing storyline and disjointed plot holes, by following three groups of humans that frankly, we don’t really care for. But then again, which Godzilla or Kong movie in the history of both franchises have been put up for screenplay of the year awards? On the flip side, the massive ambition of pitting two fan-favourite titans together is itself an impressive feat and if you just want in on the action, or are a fan of either icon, this flick is still a big budget fan-service popcorn movie to sit through once.
The movie revolves around Kong and his protectors (as if he needs any) undertaking a treacherous journey to bring him back to where he was truly from. As it turns out, history recognises the giant ape and the gigantic monster as being adversaries since the dawn of time, so both are drawn to each other somehow, even though Kong has been conveniently hidden away all this while. Naturally, the two big bad clashes halfway through this expedition in the middle of the ocean no less, even as the paper-thin plot begins unravelling itself through the perspective of the different groups.
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However, the way the movie jumps back and forth between the narratives doesn’t really make sense, and it’s as if director Adam Wingard (Death Note) isn’t interested in trying. As the revelations start to kick in, you might find that certain things don’t add up or are left unexplained for the worse.
Remember all that talk and set up about an ancient rivalry between them? Well, you won’t find any answers in this film either. The feud between Godzilla and Kong simply feels shallow, as if they are natural enemies with no reason, and when audiences start asking questions, even trivial ones, the house of cards start to crumble.
The majority of the story revolves around two parties. Dr Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), Dr Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and Jia’s (Kaylee Hottle) group, and the other one led by Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown).
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Jia is a young orphan girl adopted by Ilene, a Monarch anthropologist known as the Kong Whisperer, who has been working to try and keep Kong in a safe environment. Ilene and Jia, and Nathan are all new entrants to the franchise, but there is a trust among the three, even as Jia and Ilene start off immediately with a special bond with Kong that is heavily emphasised in the entire movie. While Hottle pulls off a great role as Jia, in managing her heartening bond with Kong, the three, despite their wonderful chemistry altogether, aren’t enough to carry the movie.
The link to previous movies comes in the form of Millie Bobby Brown, who reprises her role as Madison, along with Kyle Chander as her father. She forms the second group who are on team Godzilla, investigating Godzilla’s behaviour, as it has also been attacking the facility of Apex Corporation. The whole Acme-styled name notwithstanding, which already tells audiences that Apex is part of some conspiracy, Madison’s role in this is questionable as events of the movie would still have occurred, even without her presence. Kyle Chander’s Mark Russell is also equally meaningless as he is nothing more than a cameo. While it might help to provide perspective to the viewers, there’s too much exposition and all audiences get is some little light-hearted humour from the interaction between Madison and her friend Josh (Julian Dennison) when they try to uncover the truth behind Godzilla’s outrage.
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On the Apex front, much attention has been placed on Shun Oguri as scientist Ren Serizawa and Demian Bichir as Apex CEO Walter Simmons but both are extremely underwhelming as the script doesn’t do them justice.
If you’re a big fan or have noticed “things” in the trailers, the expected guest does appear in this film. (Spoiler: Click only if you want to know who shows up)
But enough about the inconsequential humans, as the monsters are the focus, even if their roles aren’t well balanced. While the movie’s title gives top billing to Godzilla, Kong has a more extensive presence in the movie, as attention is placed on the ape. In fact, one can argue that this could well be a direct sequel to Kong: Skull Island. For Godzilla fans, the prehistoric sea-monster feels like a sidelined supporting character who was hired just for his name.
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Despite those flaws, Legendary is second to none when it comes to cinematography and visuals. Each battle (yes, there is more than one) is a visual spectacle, from the ocean one, the night one, and the glorious city battle in the day that fans have been clamouring for.
What the special effects team has nailed is the expressions on both titans, as they fight one another. Godzilla looks all gnarly but there’s a gleam in his eyes. As for Kong, the film conveys his feelings beautifully and might even sway Godzilla’s fans to change sides. Now, if only they could have done something about the ever-changing sizes of both monsters throughout the movie.
By the time the third act comes about, visuals are the only thing left to enjoy, as the journey to Kong’s home is perhaps the silliest moment in the movie, as the script does absolutely nothing to even try to convince audiences what the heck is happening. They drilled a hole directly from where to where? And we’re not even talking about the Hyperloop tunnel from the US to Hong Kong that got our head scratching. And what’s with Stormbreaker? Aliens? Middle Earth? So that’s where the kaijus came from? We give up!
Godzilla vs. Kong ignores logic to deliver the ultimate fan-service. Leave your puny brain at the entrance of the cinema because, in a one-of-a-kind fight club like this, you don’t talk about anything else.
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