What began in 2014 with Godzilla, the reboot of Toho’s Godzilla franchise, has resulted, seven years later in the mother of all battles. Godzilla vs. Kong, the fourth film within Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse, is a clash of the titans for the ages that nearly all filmgoers have been anticipating. Based on a script from Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, GvK is directed by Adam Wingard and is 113 minutes of pure fun.
GvK stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Kaylee Hottle and Demián Bechir. All of them, like previous films in the MonsterVerse, take backseats to the “kaiju.”
Pearson and Borenstein provide a bit of a story – Godzilla attacks a facility run by Apex Cybernetics (a tech company invested in solving Earth’s “titan problem”), off the coast of Pensacola, FL. Up until that point, Godzilla was regarded as a hero and ally, but, after the attack, all bets are off. Meanwhile, Kong is on Skull Island, living under a huge dome, while all of it is overseen by Monarch (the organization originally seen in 2014’s Godzilla that studies creatures like Kong and Godzilla).
Walter Simmons (Bechir), the CEO of Apex, believes there is a power source deep within the planet waiting to be discovered. Walter, believing this power source could save all humanity and help level the playing field against the titans, recruits Nathan Lind (Skarsgard), a scientist, to travel to the Earth’s core and find this power source. Lind, who previously theorized of this place, known as Hollow Earth, enlists the help of anthropologist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Hall), and her adopted daughter, Jia (Hottle), to convince Kong to guide Lind and his team during their mission.
In the meantime, Madison Russell (Brown) who is convinced Godzilla isn’t the baddie he’s been reported to be, teams up with her friend, Josh (Dennison), and an Apex engineer (and titan conspiracy theorist), Bernie Hayes (Henry), to discover why Godzilla attacked the Apex facility. They stumble upon some sinister activity, which ties into the parallel story to discover Hollow Earth.
Reading all of that may be confusing, but honestly it isn’t. Besides, none of that matters because it’s just the undercard for the main event – Godzilla vs. Kong!
The two creatures face off about three times – each battle is epic on every level. They fight each other on land and water, leaving destruction so large it would make the DC Extended Universe’s destruction levels look like a fender bender. The effects are top notch - both creatures look real (with excellent detail) and move smoothly. Adam Wingard decided to use close-ups and up shots to stress how massively large and imposing Godzilla and Kong are. And, surprisingly, part of the film is seen from Kong’s point of view, which allows viewers to buy into his father-daughter relationship with young, deaf Jia.
Of course, GvK has its share of problems. The storyline is fine, but some of the things going on are so unbelievable (wait, a world within our world?; an aircraft carrier is ibg enough to carry and transport Kong?; Kong hasn't broken out of the dome?) – even more unbelievable than two mythical creatures (wait, Kong & Godzilla really exist?) throwing down with Earth as their octagon. The storyline involving Madison, Bernie and Josh has the most problems (Security! Unlocked computers ull of sensitive info! Supersonic travel! The effects of alcohol on electronic equipment!), but it also provides the film’s best reveal.
Bad jokes and one-liners come down like rain – obviously to lighten the mood, but don't accomplish. In all, GvK knows it’s silly, but does a poor job of telling audiences. Most viewers, though, already know what to expect (at least, I hope so) so this isn’t a huge negative.
Wingard understands that all the audience wants to see is Godzilla… and Kong… fighting… a lot. He happily obliges and their battles are absolutely worth the price of admission. To aid in the visuals, Wingard commissioned Ben Seresin (World War Z, Unstoppable) as cinematographer. As a result, the landscapes are beautiful, the close-ups of the kaiju are sharp and the action is surprisingly easy to follow. Coupled with the fantastic special effects and CGI, the result is a slick sci-fi actioner that’s as big as anyone could imagine.
With the past year largely bereft of giant, mindless blockbusters, Godzilla vs. Kong has arrived to fill that void (and, man, does it ever!). GvK is both a blockbuster event film and pay-per-view contact sporting event, and all of it is entertaining. Its two stars are big in every way imaginable and are more than ready to lay waste - er, take to center stage.
Godzilla vs. Kong is fun from beginning to end – even more fun when you turn off your brain.
4 stars out 5