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TAC Reviews...MonsterVerse

 

The MonsterVerse is the creation of Legendary studios and Warner Bros. that features both Godzilla and King Kong. The first instalment of this new franchise was a reboot of Godzilla in 2014 (which was one of my first reviews for this site) and continued with Kong: Skull Island in 2017 with Godzilla: King of the Monsters set for release in 2018 which will be followed by Godzilla Vs. Kong in 2020. At the time of writing my Godzilla review I was unaware that film was intended to be the first of a shared universe.

 

 

The tone of the articles below are going to be a bit different mainly because I wrote the review of Godzilla when I started this site, and was still getting into the swing of writing plus developing my own style.

 

Right now that’s out of the way, let’s crack on…

 

TAC Reviews...Godzilla

 

Godzilla is a 2014 science-fiction film and serves as a reboot of the Godzilla franchise, and has nothing to do with the 1998 film of the same name, and stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Cranston

 

Godzilla Film Poster

 

I think in life everyone starts off as a movie going optimist, then as time goes on and you see one piece of crap after another you become more and more cynical until eventually you don’t look forward with new film with hope you look forward with an arched eyebrow and a massively sarcastic quip just waiting to be hurled when someone else tries to tell you that blockbusters like Twilight and Prometheus weren’t as painful as jabbing a fork in each eye.

 

Did Godzilla restore my faith in cinema? Of course it didn’t, if it did I wouldn’t be writing about it. 

 

This film (not to be confused with the one from 1998) centres around Godzilla and two other monsters called…I dunno so I am going to call them...Steve and Sharon, that isn’t what they are called but sod it. Anyone who has seen the trailer will know that bloke from Breaking Bad featured quite heavily, so you would imagine that he features quite heavily in the film right? Wrong, the scenes from the trailer are the amount he’s in the film, then he dies (spoiler alert) to be replaced by his son or whoever.

 

The premise of this shambles is that the nuclear testing done in the south pacific a few years ago by the French were actually attempts to kill Godzilla, not just harmless nuclear testing, yes they  were not harmless nuclear tests. But they failed and Godzilla has spent the last few years not holding a grudge and swimming around minding his own business, listening out for signs that his arch enemies, Steve and Sharon have awakened from their slumber. Yeah, Godzilla has been around for millions of years just waiting for these things to reappear, personally I’d think in a few millions years you’d have time to examine every blade of grass to make sure these things aren’t inexplicably hiding beneath them and tread on them if they are, but no he was content to swim around listening.

 

Well Steve hatches from his cocoon and immediately set off to go find Sharon so they can repopulate the Earth with their kind. It is at this point that Godzilla springs into action, by which I mean he swims to Hawaii to catch up with Steve, causing a massive tsunami that wipes out hundreds of innocent holiday makers approaches Steve for the titanic battle, at which point the film cuts to a child watching TV in which we see Steve fly round Godzilla’s head for a minute whilst Godzilla swats pathetically at him with his arms before Steve flies off and Godzilla returns to the sea to continue his pursuit.

 

What are the humans doing whilst this is happening you ask? Well, pretty much nothing, you see Steve is looking for Sharon, and Sharon is being held in a mountain near Vegas for some reason. The military have her in a bunker but when Steve gets loose feel the need to check to make sure she’s still there so they open a little window in the door and discover half the mountain missing and her wandering towards Vegas. Seriously guys, you had to look through the window? Did no one, I don’t know, hear the sounds of a giant monster ripping half the mountain away?? The humans are essentially helpless because both Steve and Sharon give off multiple EMP charges (that is Electro-Magnetic Pulse for the less nerdy of you) rendering all your technology useless...the reasons for this are not made clear but they probably made sense to the writer when the woodpecker sitting on his ear steadily hammering through his skull pierced his brain.

 

If this had been made as a fake nature documentary with David Attenborough doing a narration I’d probably have actually enjoyed it, but as it was we got a film about giant monsters kicking the crap out of one another and it was boring. Read that final bit to yourself again and ask yourself how the hell do you make a film with that premise boring? I don’t know but thankfully we live in a world where Hollywood can take such a great premise and make it shit, but then these are the same people who thought vampires that glow in direct sunlight would be a good idea.

 

The special effects are impressive but killing off the best character in it was a real waste of talent and spending the entire time teasing the audience with the promise of an epic monster battle was pointless.

 

My final verdict is therefore a definate Thumbs Down

 

 

3/10 - Impressive special effects but on the whole this is an irritating waste of a potentially great idea

 

TAC Reviews...Kong: Skull Island

 

Released in 2017 Kong: Skull Island is sent in the Legendary MonsterVerse, which is the same universe as 2014’s Godzilla. Unlike that film which was set in the present day, the majority of Kong happens in 1973. Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Hiddleston appear along with John C. Reilly and John Goodman.

 

Kong: Skull Island Poster

 

I look back over my reviews frequently (generally to check them for spelling and grammar errors that I missed when I proof-read them before posting them) but also because I actually like reading my own stuff. Recently I cast my eye over my Godzilla review (which is now above this one) and whether you realise it or not that was one of my first reviews for this site. I also did not rate the film especially highly as Godzilla and the two monsters didn’t seem to do much the majority of the film except wander about. Plus I was so uninterested in the monsters Godzilla was fighting I didn’t even bother to remember or look up what they were called. The film focussed on the human characters rather than the monsters, which seemed to me to be a massive miss-step. The final battle between Godzilla and the monsters was…meh…in my eyes and so I assumed we’d hear no more about this franchise.

 

I have no idea if it was always the intention for Godzilla to be part of a wider universe or that every other studio in Hollywood is looking at the Marvel Cinematic Universe with envious eyes so have decided to have their own wider universe. DC are trying to do it with the DC Shared Universe and Universal are having a bash with their Dark Universe that started with 2017’s The Mummy starring Tom Cruise.

 

Was Kong any good or was it another dull edition to Legendary’s MonsterVerse, let’s set sail to Skull Island to find out

 

The film opens in 1944 with two pilots, one being an American named Hank Marlow, being shot down and crash-landing on an island, Marlow and Japanese pilots start fighting, but their battle suddenly ends when a huge ape appears and stares down at them both…

 

(So we are a few minutes in and we’ve already seen the titular Kong)

 

Cut to 1973, representatives of a company called Monarch approach a US Senator requesting permission to head to a mysterious island that has only recently been discovered by satellite. What is on the island is a mystery but Bill Randa (Goodman) advises that whatever is there, the Americans should stake a claim on it before anyone else can. The senator agrees to give them the funds and armed personnel to go to the island but if it turns out to be a wild-goose chase no further funding will be given to Monarch.

 

Elsewhere the Americans are abandoning Vietnam with many of the soldiers happy to be finally returning home. Their commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Jackson) is less enthusiastic, and is contacted by his superiors who tell him that he and his men are being loaned to Randa in order to investigate the island.

 

Randa also tracks down a former SAS operative James Conrad (Hiddleston), who specialises in going to dangerous locations extracting people to accompany them, they are also joined by a photo journalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson)

 

The group arrive at the massive storm front that permanently surrounds the island, and the soldiers are briefed as to why they are there. Monarch is interested in the mineral wealth the island may have so are intending to have the fleet of helicopters drop seismic charges all over the island which will give them a reading of the underlying minerals. They will set up a base camp on the island and will be collected in a few days from the island’s north end, if they miss the rendezvous there will not be another.

 

Things seem to be going to plan, the charges are being dropped and exploding, when a tree is suddenly hurled at one of the helicopters, shattering the windows and causing it to crash. Before the eyes of the stunned soldiers a giant ape appears in front them, being soldiers they immediately open fire, and the monster before them decimates their fleet of helicopters. The majority of the soldiers are killed and the survivors are separated into small groups, and forced to lick their wounds as they try to figure out how they are going to make it off the island alive.

 

As they travel deeper into the island they discover Marlow (Reilly) who was the American pilot we saw in the opening that has been on the island since 1944. He informs the survivors that the ape that attacked them, known as Kong is not the worst thing on the island, far from it; in fact Kong is all that stands between the island and far more dangerous creatures called Skullcrawlers. If Kong doesn’t kill them when they are young they will grow to huge proportions, escape the island and become a real threat to the rest of the world.

 

Kong is territorial and only attacked the helicopters because they were dropping seismic charges, and he viewed them as a threat. Conrad and Co hurry to reunite with the other survivors as Packard is hell-bent on killing the monster that slaughtered his men.

 

Godzilla left a bad taste in my mouth by focussing on the humans rather than the monsters, and fortunately Kong: Skull Island doesn’t make the same mistake.

 

When Peter Jackson remade King Kong in 2005 Kong himself was essentially an over-sized gorilla, and he moved like one, on all fours. This Kong is not meant to be just a big ape, he is supposed to be a complete different species, and as a result he walks on two legs rather than four. He reminded me more of a yeti than an ape. Now unlike Godzilla which seemed to take an age to get going, we see Kong within five minutes of the film opening, the whole getting-to-the-island things is done pretty quickly and then we can crack on with the action. Personally I liked this approach, this is, after all, a monster movie so naturally we want to see the monsters. Godzilla seemed to forget this, thankfully, Kong: Skull Island doesn’t.

 

Kong has more screen time that I remember Godzilla having and even though he doesn’t speak, he is obviously not a mindless monster. There is a sequence in which one of the wrecked helicopters has landed on a giant water buffalo like creature that is crying out in pain. Weaver tries to move the wreckage but is not strong enough, suddenly the helicopter is lifted up, Kong stands over her and simply looks at her before walking away. Kong isn’t the monster of the movie he is effectively the hero. He has a personality and will not just attack without reason or provocation; however, Packard effectively becomes the film’s Captain Ahab as he is determined to kill the giant beast.

 

The fight between Kong and the Big-One (a huge skullcrawler) is suitably bone-crunching with some of the humans helping the big ape out so he can get the upper hand against the creature.

 

I did enjoy this film and it does go to show that monster movies can still work and can be good, however, it was not all good. The soldiers are basically there to be killed and whilst some are given some time to have personalities, they pretty much just seem to be doing what the characters in Independence Day Resurgence did and are having a: who can have the noblest death competition. One of them decides to stand his ground as the giant Skullcrawler charges him and his men down, he holds two grenades above his head, and goads the creature to…well, presumably eat him hoping that the grenades will detonate inside the monster and kill it. Sadly for him, the creature bats him away with his tail where he sails into the distance and the grenades detonate uselessly, but killing him.

 

 

Er…guy that plan sucked.

 

This is a military trained Vietnam soldier, why exactly did he decide to sacrifice himself in such a pointless way?? Like I said so he can have the noblest death, that is really the only reason that I can think of, his death really serves no purpose.

 

There is also one of those scenes that I have seen countless times in movies and always make me frown and scratch my head. You’ll know the one, as you’ve undoubtedly seen it a million times yourself. Conrad’s group enter some ruins with inscriptions and such, as Weaver is taking pictures a native appears that was standing in front of the ruin with their face and body painted to make them blend in. I always wonder when I see this, how long have they been standing there?? Do they spend days, weeks, months, years just standing around in the ruins waiting for the day when some stranger walks in so they can open their eyes at the precise moment to scare them?? Is that a life well spent?? Who knows. Fortunately the natives in this version of Skull Island are friendly and have been giving Marlow a safe place to live since he crashed there in the 1940s.

 

As the American pilot who has been surviving the island since 1944 Marlow is naturally on hand to tell the survivors what is going on, but he also has a strange comedy moment that is completely out of place. He informs Conrad that Kong is the good guy, and the creatures he fights are called Skullcrawlers. Thing is he then says that he’d only ever thought that name, and didn’t realise how stupid it was until he spoke it out loud. It seems like this was supposed to be a funny moment but it is more awkward than anything else, and just left me frowning rather than smiling. I understand that there is a monster in this universe called Mothra (which is a giant moth), which is also a bit of a stupid name; “Skullcrawler” is hardly the dumbest name he could have chosen. If he’d called them “Pixie-dusters” then yeah, that is a stupid name, but not sure why Skullcrawlers is any stupider than Mothra. Anyway, the joke is just out of place and doesn’t fit with the overall tone of the film as there are no other occasions when anyone seems to be making jokes.

 

Goodman’s character’s motivation for coming to the island is basically just to get proof that monsters exist. During the nuclear tests in the Pacific (which we learned in Godzilla were attempts by the French to kill the titular monster) Randa was on one of the ships Godzilla destroyed and he has spent his life trying to prove that monsters are real. The seismic charges were supposed to provoke a response from Kong so he could get the photographic evidence that he needed. As motivations go it is not the most original but it is also the reason that the majority of the people die. If he wanted to flush Kong out then why didn’t he…I dunno…get a helicopter to dangle a huge banana from it then film Kong when he came to eat it??

 

Acting wise there are some decent performances here with Jackson naturally shining as the Army Officer determined to kill the monster who killed his men, not realising or caring that he is putting the survivors in danger in his selfish desire for revenge. I think thought that the characters are nothing we haven’t seen before. The ex-SAS guy, the woman, the grizzled soldiers, the young men who just want to get home, and so on and so on.

 

As there is nowhere else to bung this particular point I’ll put it here, there is a bit after the credits which cements this as part of the MonsterVerse

 

All in all I have to say that I did like this film, Kong was strong, and powerful but was not a mindless monster. The acting is decent enough with Reilly clearly enjoying himself, and whilst some aspects of the film fall rather flat, the characters are interesting enough, and the focus remains on Kong not the humans. The film is awarded with a Thumbs Up, hopefully now that Kong: Skull Island has raised the bar from the poor effort that was Godzilla the next outing for Godzilla, the so-called King of the Monsters, will be better, and I look forward to seeing Kong tackle Godzilla in Kong Vs Godzilla in 2020.

 

 

7/10 – This is pretty good and entertaining monster movie, it doesn’t take itself too seriously which is a plus, and also it doesn’t forget that in a monster movie we want to see the monsters not piss about with what the humans are doing.

 

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