Who would have guessed that the film to welcome back the traditional movie theater experience as the pandemic waned was not Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (2020) or Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), but Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong?
As with the Planet of the Apes reboots, this was seemingly a revamped franchise we probably didn’t need, yet got anyway, and surprisingly turned out to be mostly decent.
When Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) debuted, it was given intriguing and effective marketing, yet received a lukewarm reception from viewers. Something similar happened with Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island (2017), though instead of being accused of being boring, it was just a little too schlocky. Now, following Michael Dougherty’s successful Godzilla: King of Monsters, does Warner Bros’ “MonsterVerse” finally take off?
As with most epic action-adventure blockbusters, there are not only giant monsters in Godzilla vs. Kong, but a wide variety of characters. Back on Skull Island, geologist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) and linguist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) are studying King Kong’s behavior and origins with the unexpected help of Ilene’s deaf adolescent daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who appears to have a special connection with the colossal ape.
On the other side of the world, paranoid podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), and high schoolers Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) team up to track down what they believe is a genocide plot involving Godzilla led by shady tech company head Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir). Eiza González, Lance Reddick, Shun Oguri and Kyle Chandler make up the rest of the cast of familiar faces.
The most common complaint about Kong and Godzilla movies is that the excitement of the action is brought down by the dull subplots involving the humans. Well, Godzilla vs. Kong is a possible case of “be careful what you wish for,” because this is a 113-minute non-stop action sequence with no character development or arcs in sight. The chase and battle sequences are eye candy for all with impressive and vibrant special effects.
If you feel comfortable and healthy enough to visit a movie theater already open near you, I would definitely say Wingard’s new feature fully lives up to the big screen experience. The cast themselves are fine, though basically just good looking, uninteresting roles designed only to lead the monsters along the way.
Out of all the MonsterVerse efforts so far, Wingard has really nailed the tone and atmosphere of a traditional action-adventure blockbuster from the 1980s and 90s. There are moments of Godzilla vs. Kong that remind me of Travis Knight’s Bumblebee (2018), with its subtle sense of nostalgia and a past era. This, as well as Wingard’s skill in crafting very entertaining action scenes, more than makes up for a lack of interesting characters or plot.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.