Godzilla Vs Kong (PG13)
113 minutes, opens on March 24
The current series of Kong and Godzilla films have established that both creatures are surly loners who wish only to be left in peace. But where is the fun in that? So in Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017), pesky humans tried to find ways to either harness their power or eliminate them, with entertaining results.
The “humans are the real monsters” idea comes back in this, a crossover that pits the two titular creatures against each other.
From the marketing, it is apparent that the movie is trying to make “who will win?” the hook, which seems to overestimate how emotionally invested viewers are in the franchise.
Judged as a standalone movie, this is a touch more entertaining than its predecessors, mainly because it has finally ditched the ham-fisted family drama that, in the 2014 origin movie and in Godzilla: King Of The Monsters (2019), tried to pass for the emotion-centred science-fiction found in Steven Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds (2005).
Happily, also dropped is the “what do the monsters really want” question becoming a drawn-out mystery.
Instead, in a comedy-tinged heist story, here is Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison fallen in with conspiracy theorists. There is Alexander Skargard’s Nathan Lind, a disgraced scientist in an Indiana Jones-adventure subplot in an alien land.
So much is going on that the film’s running time feels scarcely enough to contain its threads, but at least it looks well-edited, with the bonus of creature fight action that feels tightly choreographed.
103 minutes, opens on March 25
In the future, assassins like Tasya (British actress Andrea Riseborough) can jack into the minds of others, ejecting the original consciousness and replacing it with their own. Once infected, or possessed, as in the title, the host – usually a trusted member of the kill target’s inner circle – goes about its usual business, waiting for the right moment to strike.
It is not exactly a novel set-up. John Woo’s Face/Off (1997) put it into a crime thriller and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) used it in an alien-invasion story.
Here, however, the device is used to talk about the madness that results when technology allows the self and the body – the “driver” and the “vehicle” – to become disassociated for too often, too long.
This exploration of the fragility of the mind-body connection comes from Canadian writer-director Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg, he of body-horror classics Rabid (1977) and The Fly (1986).
The younger Cronenberg makes references to his dad’s work through the use of practical-effects gore that leans heavily on body augmentation and mutilation (note the R21 rating), a point he cheekily makes clear with the casting of Jennifer Jason Leigh as Girder, Tasya’s boss. She was the game designer Geller in the elder Cronenberg’s thriller Existenz (1999).
It is not all homage though. There is a chilly contemporary sheen to this that is all the film-maker’s own, a mood bolstered by powerful performances from Riseborough playing the killer and Christopher Abbot as Tate, the man whose body she has commandeered.