GODZILLA vs KONG (2021)
Godzilla vs Kong opens a few years after Godzilla’s battle to the death with King Ghidorah in Boston. Godzilla has left mankind in peace, till suddenly launching an attack on an Apex Cybernetics facility in Florida. Meanwhile, Skull Island is becoming unstable and Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) seeks to find Kong a new home. As fate would have it, scientist Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) needs a titan to lead the way to the Hollow Earth, which may be the original home of Kong’s race. As Andrews and Lind, with the help of Apex, begin to move Kong from his ill-fated island home, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) teams with Titan Truth Podcast host Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) to find out what Apex is really up to and why it’s provoking Godzilla to attack. As there can be only one alpha titan, the paths of Godzilla and Kong are fated to collide and as they are destined to meet in combat, Apex is about to unleash a threat that may be the end of all titans on Earth.
Sequel to Godzilla, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island is directed by Adam Wingard (The Guest, You’re Next) from a script by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, based on a story by Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields. As such, it is a fun monster battle blast. Sure the plot is a bit convoluted and character development/motivation is kept to a bare minimum, but we don’t watch a Godzilla or Kong movie expecting Shakespeare. Adam Wingard delivers what might be one of the most visually sumptuous kaiju flicks ever made, as well, as some of the most vicious and intense monster fights once Kong and Godzilla collide. His previous films showed a man who loves movies and it’s his inner film geek that best serves this fun, popcorn monster mash. The film gives us a giant monster flick that delightfully flaunts it’s influences, as G vs K evokes Ishirō Honda with it’s spectacular battles, Edgar Rice Burroughs, as Kong and his handlers explore the lost world of the Hallow Earth, and a touch of James Bond as Madison, her bud Josh (Julian Dennison) and Bernie sneak into Apex’s secret underground lab in Hong Kong. Wingard also gives us a Godzilla whose appearances evoke Jaws in the very best way. The human characters may be shortchanged, and Kong is far more the focus than Godzilla, but the action is fast and furious and comes quick enough for what exposition there is, to not get in the way of the entertainment. The battles between Godzilla and Kong are both visually spectacular and extremely brutal and Wingard does deliver what he promises…a definite winner. The script also cleverly finds a way to get the loser of the battle back in action and a chance to redeem themselves, when Apex unleashes a common enemy that presents a danger to both combatants. The digital SPFX are absolutely top notch, especially when pitting Godzilla and Kong against each other in neon drenched Hong Kong, and in the exploration of the Hallow Earth world. The cinematography by Ben Seresin is absolutely gorgeous and compliments Wingard’s expert shot composition and visual design very well. The score by Tom Holkenborg/Junkie XL is simply one of the best non Akira Ifukube scores attached to a Godzilla flick. All in all, story and character weaknesses aside, this is a roller coaster, fun ride of monster movie mayhem.
Wingard has assembled a good cast that help make two dimensional characters a bit livelier. Rebecca Hall is noble and strong-willed as the Jane Goodall-like Dr. Ilene Andrews. She’s likable and has Kong’s best interests in mind. Alexander Skarsgård is also endearing as the slightly timid but driven Dr. Nathan Lind. He lost a brother to a Hollow Earth expedition and is dedicated to successfully exploring it. Millie Bobby Brown is once again spunky and strong-willed as Madison. She is sworn to clearing Godzilla’s name and prove he is no enemy to man. Brian Tyree Henry is fun as eccentric podcaster Bernie, seeking to uncover Apex’s secret, as is Julian Dennison as the reluctant tag-along Josh. Rounding out our good guys is the charming Kyle Chandler in a smaller role as Dr. Mark Russell and adorable Kaylee Hottle as Jia, a little deaf girl and last survivor of Skull Island’s indigenous people. Her handicap gives her the ability to sign, which she teaches Kong, in a clever story device to have the massive simian emote and communicate more. Kong is presented as a noble hero here, while Godzilla is clearly the aggressor and bad guy, till a last act reveal unveils his motivation for the attacks. As for our underdeveloped bad guys, Demián Bichir is appropriately sinister as Apex CEO Walter Simmons, who wants to destroy all monsters, sexy Eiza González gets some of the worst lines as the apple that doesn’t fall far from the tree, his daughter Maya and Shun Oguri has sadly little screen time as Ren Serizawa, the son of Dr. Ishirō Serizawa, who wants payback from Godzilla over his father’s death. A plot-line that definitely needed more attention. Thinly written characters, yes…a good cast, definitely!
Overall, those expecting a monster flick with the story depth of some of the recent high-end superhero epics might come away disappointed. Those going in expecting a monster Wrestlemania of epic portions, will probably be very entertained and on that level, Wingard and company deliver big time. The action is fast and furious, human interference is kept to a minimum and it is one of the most visually dynamic giant monster movies ever. The battles are brutal and intense and, for the most part, Wingard lets his titans go at it with the human interactions kept on the down low. Sure, the character development could have been stronger, but it’s somewhat convoluted story allows film geek Adam Wingard to delightfully reference a number of flicks both within and without the monster movie world. It also has some clever touches like Kong’s equalizer, an ancient axe made from a Godzilla ancestor dorsal spine. It makes for a wonderfully fun, popcorn flick that has wonders for the eye, plenty of adventure and some of the best monster fights yet captured on film. The Legendary Monster-verse seems to be finally finding it’s stride. Let’s hope they keep it going if this flick is a monster success.