Marquee monsters bring the spectacle in 'Godzilla vs. Kong'
Director Adam Wingard knows how to deliver what a movie titled “Godzilla vs. Kong” should be. Audiences watch Godzilla movies because we want to see the big lizard crush a bunch of buildings, perhaps while fighting another creature, not for deep myth-making or rich character study.
Yet, the past three films in the MonsterVerse franchise that have led to this clash of the Titans, “Godzilla,” “Kong: Skull Island” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” have been heavy on the lore and characters, setting the stage for this matchup. Wingard knows the appeal of this film is two beloved movie giants pulverizing a city, and he offers that spectacle dripping in neon and techno. Break out the glow sticks, it’s time for the kaiju rave that is “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
When last we met our fair Godzilla, the monster had unexpectedly become humanity’s savior, fighting off the triple-headed King Ghidorah. Which is why Godzilla’s attack on Apex Cybernetics Pensacola comes as a rude awakening. Who ya gonna call? King Kong, living in a kind of Skull Island “Truman Show” biodome. The screenplay by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein is both simple and ridiculous, and most importantly, it gets Kong off the panopticon of the Skull Island simulation and plants him where he belongs: walloping Godzilla from the parapets of a skyscraper.
As befitting the franchise, entirely too many actors have been cast to run around the feet of Godzilla and Kong spouting vaguely scientific dialogue. Alexander Skarsgard plays a scientist with a special knowledge of “Hollow Earth” who is tapped to lead an expedition there to bring Kong to the earth’s core to find some kind of energy source that can be used as a weapon against Godzilla. Accompanying them are Kong chaperone Ilene (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), an indigenous Iwi girl who communicates with Kong via sign language. Also along for the ride is Maya (Eiza Gonzalez), a sleazy Apex scion, who certainly won’t try to do anything nefarious with any mysterious energy source, nope, not at all.
Meanwhile, a disgruntled Apex employee-turned-podcaster Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), has hooked up with teen Godzilla fans Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and Josh (Julian Dennison) to infiltrate Apex and find out why Godzilla attacked. Through a series of unfortunate and befuddling events (Skullcrawler egg transport stowaway; Godzilla blasting a hole into Hollow Earth with atomic breath), all the Titans and all the humans end up in Hong Kong, as Kong and Godzilla wreck stuff against a vivid urban nightscape.
Kong has the richest and most tragic backstory, and the more expressive face with which to empathize, and while the film seems firmly Team Kong, we’d never have to choose between these two Titans (the villain is always capitalism anyway).
What makes “Godzilla vs. Kong” worth watching is Ben Seresin’s cinematography. Though every scene seems to take place at night, underwater, on a barge or underground, the non-CGI moments are lit with contrasting colors gleaming on metal and moisture, rendering the human scale scenes as visually interesting as the massive skyscraper-crumbling brawl. The score by Tom Holkenberg, aka trance DJ/producer Junkie XL, enhances the futuristic disco-clash aesthetic.
If it’s vibes (and destruction) you seek, “Godzilla vs. Kong” delivers. Now to convince the powers that be to let Wingard direct a “Tron” movie, the ultimate electro-neon vibe-out franchise.
‘GODZILLA VS. KONG’
2.5 stars (out of 4)
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison, Demián Bichir, Eiza González
Directed by Adam Wingard
Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language.