Updated: Jul 30, 2021
ESP’s film critic Gavin Miller is keeping his eye on the small screen and has headed to Amazon Prime to check out this monster new release…
Two of the most iconic behemoths in pop culture history combine forces to become the first major stellar worldwide cinematic hit since the Covid pandemic wreaked havoc more than a year ago.
With British cinemas – including Peterborough’s Showcase Cinema De Lux – still shuttered until their anticipated May 17 re-opening, the only place we can see it is via the likes of Sky or Amazon Prime as a premium £15.99 home movie rental – but with multiplexes back up and running in huge markets such as America and China, this really has become the first major blockbuster to get ‘bums back on seats’.
It has already notched $300million across only six markets at around 50% capacity, which is a dramatic advancement over the other two notable pre-vaccine launches in the past year – Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 – which were undoubtedly affected by movie-goers trepidation on returning en masse.
So is it worth shelling out 16 quid? In a few words. Yes. Just about.
This fourth movie in Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse is a sequel to 2014’s Godzilla (Rating: 3/5), 2017’s Kong: Skull Island (Rating: 3/5) and 2019’s Godzilla: King of Monsters (Rating: 1.5/5), and is a marked improvement over the last one, with noteworthy refinements over the first two.
That’s mainly because you’ve got the enormous gorilla ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’ King Kong and the gigantic lizard-like mutated kaiju Godzilla battling on screen for the first-time in a major Hollywood tentpole.
And it’s those battles that pretty much make the movie supremely watchable. Great computer-generated effects and coherent monster battles – where you can actually see what is going on – are a dramatic step up from the bleak and murky action sequences from King of Monsters when the viewing experience was hampered by ‘not having a clue’ to what was happening. Because basically you couldn’t tell.
It’s undoubtedly the two big-time face-offs with Kong/Godzilla at sea and on land that prove to be the main courses, with the weak but serviceable human characters playing the hors d’oeuvres amongst an overly contrived – and generally wooden – story.
To cut a long story short, Kong is being monitored by Monarch – the multinational organisation created by the US government to study giant creatures – and he has started communicating via sign language to Dr Andrews’ (Rebecca Hall) daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) who is deaf.
Brian Tyree Henry’s annoying podcaster and Apex Cybernetics employee Bernie Hayes – who later joins forces with the returning Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison Russell and pal Josh Valentine (Deadpool 2’s Julian Dennison) – has extracted some data suggesting some sinister activities at a facility, which Godzilla mysteriously attacks.
Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Alien: Covenant’s Demian Bichir) then recruits ex-Monarch employee Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) – who theorises that there’s a homeworld of the Titans towards the planet’s core at a place tagged Hollow Earth – to search for an important power source to keep the monsters at bay.
Lind then meets up with Andrews and Jia to convince them for Kong to guide them to this mythical world via an Antarctic outpost, and all three of them, and a crack Apex squad – which includes Walter’s arrogant daughter Maia (Bloodshot’s Eiza Gonzalez) – team up for this perilous journey where Kong could just find similar beings of his type.
But there’s something dastardly afoot with Apex – to the backdrop of Kong and ‘Zilla battling to be the Alpha monster on the planet – and this leads to a finale where foes may just put their differences aside for the greater good.
Despite Godzilla’s name being adopted first in the title, this is undoubtedly Kong’s movie. He’s arguably the most human character in the entire film, and has a lot more heart and charisma than anyone else by a country mile, that will get anyone – bar the most-avid Godzilla fan – rooting for the massive ape.
That is primarily down to the breathtaking visual effects for Kong that are literally a technological wonder – and from top to bottom he virtually single-handedly makes this movie what it is.
And what is that? A roaring monster-mash of a blockbuster that could just herald in the chest-beating recovery of the cinematic experience as we know it – if not quite this side of the Atlantic just yet.
ESP Rating: 3.5/5
Viewed Format: Amazon Prime
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Demian Bichir, Brian Tyree Henry, Kyle Chandler, Julian Dennison, Eiza Gonzalez, Kaylee Hottle, Shun Oguri & Lance Reddick
Running Time: 1 Hr 53 Mins
Director: Adam Wingard