The human / monster and monster / monster relationships are, however, more important and moving. Kong and Jia are a magical screen team, in the tradition of heartbreaking couples in animal images like “The Black Stallion,” “Free Willy,” and “ET” The latter resonates very loudly. The film treats Kong’s heartbeat as a conduit to Jia’s mental state, as well as narrative Morse code pulses for the viewer that reveal Kong’s stress level and physical condition. Obviously, much of the credit for the Kong-Jia friendship should go to the filmmakers, including editor Josh Schaeffer (“Pacific Rim: Uprising”); cinematographer Ben Seresin (“Unstoppable”, “Pain and Gain”); and the nation-state of effects artists who made the drawings, motion capture, rendering, composition, etc. It’s a rare modern blockbuster with some really special effects. The Hollow Earth scenes in the middle of the frame, in particular, are ecstatically dreamy kitsch, in the vein of a 1970s sword and witchcraft paperback cover, or a psychedelic sci-fi image from the years. 70-80 or fantastic like “Zardoz,” “Flash Gordon,” “Tron,” or “The Neverending Story.” Neon primary colors in Apex Labs and the streets of Hong Kong are a blissfully decadent freshness: John Woo through of British synthpop videos Kong and Godzie might as well have made lines of coke on top of a bus before they lay inside each other.
And yet, as it is increasingly the case, this epic loaded with special effects is paradoxically an actor’s showcase – and it is scandalous that Terry Notary, who played Kong in this film and “Skull Island” , not be credited with the main cast, with TJ Storm, who played Godzilla in three Monsterverse films.
Wingard has stated that the physicality of this King Kong is partly modeled on Bruce Willis in the “Die Hard” movies and Mel Gibson in the “Lethal Weapon” series. You see the bloodline in scenes of dirty Kong fights as an alley brawler, stumbling through the streets of Hong Kong and leaping off the deck of an aircraft carrier as Godzilla bombards him from below. But it’s not just great stunt work. It’s by caliber Hoyle, Andy Serkis acting. Watch Kong spits seawater after Godzilla almost drowns him, or collapses and dozes after defeating an enemy, or rips a winged beast’s head from its neck and spits blood from the stump like a thief swallowing a pint of mead. When Kong wakes up after being airlifted to an Antarctic base to begin his journey to the Hollow Earth, he still has a hangover in Saigon from Martin Sheen from “Apocalypse Now”. When Kong speaks sign language to Jia, looking away and then looking at her, you see wheels spinning in his mind: I hate what this kid just told me, and it’s hard to understand, but I accept it because I have no choice.
Equally striking is Storm’s performance as Godzilla, albeit more opaque. This kaiju is primordial and ruthless, a zaftig brawler with a Charles Barkley caboose. He lacks Kong’s grace and ingenuity with weapons, but makes up for it with ferocity and weight (and dragon’s breath). Godzilla rages like James Gandolfini in Tony Soprano’s murder mode, slamming his mace into any creature stupid enough to stand against him. He pulls back with a glint in his eye before zipping blocks. In a succession of daring first-person close-ups, reverse shot / shot, in which Kong and Godzilla gaze into each other’s eyes, each trying to intimidate each other, Godzilla projects a mix of curiosity, alpha brutality and respectful play. game appreciation for the monkey’s refusal to submit. The look Godzilla gives Kong at the end of the image is Clint Eastwood with scales. The song selection that follows the curtain closes is wonderfully counterintuitive – a needle drop of joy – but it could also have been Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat”: “What can I say? / I guess I miss you, I guess I forgive you / I’m glad you got in my way.”