The worst thing to happen to Hong Kong since the protests, Godzilla vs Kong is too cartoonish to make you care about the collateral damage.
Had it been a tad more self-serious (like the last major matchup movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), the wanton destruction in its third act would've been unforgivable.
Watch the trailer of Godzilla vs Kong here
While most other cinematic universes have stumbled, Legendary's MonsterVerse continues to charge ahead almost out of sheer will, if not audience interest. Until now, the franchise had been a classic case of diminishing returns.
While 2014's Godzilla appropriately updated the character to suit modern sensibilities, Kong: Skull Island made the mistake of populating its cast with too many human beings; Godzilla: King of the Monsters took this a step further, and tried to convince viewers around the world that watching Kyle Chandler overcompensate for the lack of a script was a better alternative than watching a couple of CGI lunks punch each other for a couple of hours. It wasn't.
Which is perhaps why there is only a bare minimum Kyle Chandler here — a possible federal offence in any other movie, but all things said and done, a wise move in Godzilla vs Kong.
None of these movies, however, have cracked the code. The human-to-kaiju ratio in this film is still skewed, and not everyone has the skill required to inject humanity in primates that Matt Reeves brought to his Planet of the Apes movies, but Adam Wingard, directing his first blockbuster, certainly tries his best.
Our sympathies are clearly meant to be with Kong, not just because we share near-identical DNA, but because he's been given the greater character arc of the two titular Titans. He's almost an underdog here, positioned as humanity's best bet/last defence against a particularly peeved off Godzilla.
Sensing the presence of a new Monke, Godzilla's lizard brain kicks into gear, and he makes landfall in Pensacola — an event that probably made for some fabulous Florida man headlines the next day.
Here's what Wingard does in this film that neither Gareth Edwards, nor Jordan Vogt-Roberts, nor Michael Dougherty managed in the three films that came before. He hasn't quite solved the human problem, but at least his film is leaner than the others. Clocking in at well under two hours, Godzilla vs Kong isn't dominated by wall-to-wall action, and is propelled with a singleminded goal — to arrive at the final showdown.
The humans are all essentially pawns that help move the plot along, until they're swept off the board to let the two Titans sort it out like gentlemen at the end. It's somewhat ironic (and slightly fitting) that the most heartfelt moments in the movie involve two characters that can't speak.
While the first film was rather sombre, each subsequent entry in the MonsterVerse has only gotten goofier — an indication, perhaps, of just how far the pendulum has swung away from the Nolanism of the early 2010s, towards the more Marvel-friendly tone that dominated the latter half of the decade.
Godzilla vs Kong is utterly ridiculous. But when it needs to be, especially for its audience, it can be very entertaining. To arrive at those 20 minutes of mayhem, however, you will have to tolerate unnecessary world-building and a clearly disinterested Alexander Skarsgard playing a scientist. The film's box office certainly suggests that people are willing to put up with this; Godzilla vs Kong has managed to do what Christopher Nolan's Tenet couldn't -- audiences are lining up to watch this slugfest on the big screen.
The final showdown is a thing of beauty, choreographed with uncommon clarity by Wingard. It unfolds in Hong Kong, at nighttime, with the two Titans lit by neon skyscrapers. Unlike Edwards, who (very wisely) framed the kaiju from a ground-level, thereby heightening the scale,
Wingard shoots the action as if from a virtual helicopter. The styles couldn't be more different from each other, but the objective, and the results, are the same.
Godzilla vs Kong is the sort of film that'll likely be forgotten even before it concludes its international roll-out, but in the age of 'snackable content', it's a worthwhile excuse to rack up your daily Screen Time. Unless, of course, you're determined to watch this movie, about the hubris of man, in a theatre, convinced that you're too strong to fall prey to the whims of nature.