Speaking to these monsters, let’s get ready to rumble!
“Batman v Superman” was on my list of the worst movies of 2016, mainly because of its pointless battle between the two DC superheroes. And now, we have “Godzilla vs Kong” which has the two famous movie monsters battling each other, this time for the right reasons. Starting with “Godzilla” back in 2014, “Kong: Skull Island,” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” this is part of a franchise known as the Monster Verse.
In my negative response for “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” I criticized it for lacking the smarts in the human characters, and I, myself, was criticized by readers, who knew the monster movies weren’t about the humans. They were about the monsters. And so is “Godzilla vs Kong,” but there’s a lot going on here-colorful lights, monster fights, robots, destruction, sign language (we’ll circle back in a second), and lots of special effects to support them.
The story involves Godzilla attacking an APEX Cybernetic facility in Florida, which now convinces the humans that he wasn’t really their savior, and King Kong now resides in a dome on Skull Island, but is enlisted to help them find a power source in Hollow Earth to end the monster reign. The giant ape is chained on to a ship, but he manages to come face to face with the giant reptile, battling him on battleships and in Hong Kong. And the only human Kong is willing to communicate with, via sign language, is a deaf Iwa native girl named Jira (Kaylee Hottle, who comes from a deaf family tree).
The human characters are hits and misses. The three people willing to expose APEX’s secrets and the reason why Godzilla attacked that specific area consist of Brian Tyree Henry as a former APEX technician turned conspiracy theorist podcaster, Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell, whose mother gave her life to help save the world in the last film, and Julian Dennison as her loyal friend. The good guys who must travel to Hollow Earth consist of Alexander Skarsgard as a Monarch geologist, Rebecca Hall as an Anthropological linguist, and her adoptive daughter Jira. Kyle Chandler also reprises his role as Madison’s father, who worries about her safety. And the bad guys consist of Demian Bichir as APEX’s CEO, and Eiza Gonzalez as his daughter. Why are they evil? It’s predictable, but for your sake, I won’t spoil it for you guys.
Hall is generic at times, but it’s really Hottle who shines, because she is a kid who wants to prove that she’s more than meets the eye. Henry and Dennison both provide comic-relief characters wisely, while Brown delivers her courage. And while the villains aren’t fully developed, their comeuppance isn’t as irritating as how Rafe Spall and Ted Levine were both devoured in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”
“Godzilla vs Kong” was directed by Adam Wingard, who also made the 2013 sleeper horror hit “You’re Next.” It’s amazing how these independent filmmakers are able to expand their horizons by taking on big-budgeted films like this. It’s not always understandable, but it’s fun the way screenwriters Michael Dougherty, Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, Terry Rossio, and Zach Shields show fans the monsters’ personalities. They’re causing destruction, not randomly or accidentally, but with strong intentions. The sign language subplot for Kong adds a little “Shape of Water” touch to the story, and coming on the heels of “A Quiet Place” the movie is quiet respectful towards the deaf community by casting real deaf actors in those roles.
Too much is going on here, but that’s the point of this movie. You’re supposed to see who would win in a fight-Godzilla or Kong-or who the real villain is in all this. It’s a popcorn-eating picture for fans of the monster genre.
In Theaters and On HBO Max This Wednesday