Godzilla vs. Kong is by far the superior entry into the Monsterverse, it’s not even particularly close, and I’m going to tell you why. While it seems the previous films (Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of Monsters) were wrapped up in fully realized character arcs that never came to pass, Godzilla vs. Kong main focus seems to be on creating heart-pounding action sequence after sequence that grabs audiences by the throat and never relents. If thrashing, bashing, and violence that’s so absurd it would melt anyone’s capacity for rational thought are what you are seeking, then look no further.
Probably what was most striking about the film is how much Director Adam Wingard understood what was most important in Godzilla vs. Kong and his predecessors (Jordan Vogt-Roberts and Michael Dougherty) clearly didn’t. How can one film get so many things right and that the previous two films did not? That’s not to say there’s no fun to be had watching Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of Monsters but there are clearly not in the same league as Godzilla vs. Kong. A sleeping giant is on the verge of being awoken from a COVID-induced slumber. But why? Why will it be this latest chapter in the saga of Godzilla and Kong that jump-starts Cinema? Well, that can be explained by looking at these 3 things that Wingard’s film pulls off that the previous two did not.
- Next level visuals
While Jordan Vogt-Roberts Kong: Skull Island did attempt to focus on the visuals in the film, it seemed more geared towards capturing these symbolic moments in the film. Whether it was the choppers’ image coming towards Kong which evoked memories of Apocalypse Now, or those two shots with Kong and Mason (Brie Larson) that was reminiscent of early Kong films, it seemed that he only sought to make singular points through his use of visuals.
Micheal Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of Monsters was all over the place visually. While it seemed extra attention was given to the title character’s appearance, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah came off as underwhelming. Their action sequences seemed at times pedestrian too. Yes, we saw the capital being obliterated, but the CGI was so off that it was at best laughable. Most of the film seemed dedicated to laying the groundwork for the crypto-zoological agency Monarch and shoehorning an eco-centric narrative into the film rather than making sure the visual experience was top-notch.
Wingard’s film takes a completely different approach than the previous two films. Godzilla vs. Kong focuses not only focuses on the appearance of these two rivals but also on the visuals of each battle they are involved in. The first sequence where Kong and Godzilla fight at sea, and we see the are large ape friend leaping from destroyer to destroyer is amazing imagery on top of seeing these two fight underwater provides such a crisp contrast between the light and darkness of that sequence. In Godzilla: King of Monsters, at certain moments, those battles actually blurred together. That’s not even an issue in this new film.
Adam also does a wonderful job weaving in different elements and angles during these fights, giving a whole new perspective to the audience, which we didn’t see enough of in the previous two films. The best sequence in Godzilla vs. Kong is when he seamlessly weaves this futuristic vehicle into the final showdown between them while making great use of slow motion.
- Music in the key of action
While Kong: Skull Island’s score written by Henry Jackman was strong, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts didn’t emphasize the film’s musical choices. Surprising, considering how music helped shape his 2013 film The Kings of Summer. Vogt-Roberts and Wingard have both not only used music to set the tone of a scene but as a plot device that helps move the story forward. Death Note is a perfect example of this. Vogt-Roberts didn’t follow his recent pattern in Kong: Skull Island. It was as if the music was meant to capture a moment rather than set one up. The end result is those moments come off as more emotional beats than heightening an audience member’s sense of impending doom. The musical choices in Godzilla: King of Monsters largely felt indulgent and failed to set the tone or move the narrative forward. Each selection sounds rich but they serve no purpose in the film; they’re just kind of there. Wingard’s chooses to emphasize music in a way not heard in the first two films. Weave in a fantastic score composed by Junkie XL, and it only enhances an already fantastic cinematic experience no matter where one watches it.
- A hyper-focused narrative
Kong: Skull Island seemed hell-bent on answering grand questions about man’s place in the world? Mix in that with about half a dozen other things occurring, and the result is a messy storyline. Godzilla: King of Monsters was so set on setting up Godzilla’s background story that it neglected most of its audience. Remember that most will either pay to see Godzilla vs. Kong in theaters or subscribe to HBO Max, having a good idea about the monsters and their background.
Wingard’s film has a very hyper-focused storyline. They set out to create a reason why these two would want to fight to begin with. Instead of the monsters being almost supporting characters like in the previous two films, the cast (Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Alexander Skarsgård) are there to support their two leads. It is a highly effective approach and keeps the spotlight on the two characters we have all came to watch.
Image courtesy of Legendary/Warner Bros