The Reel Review

B-

Godzilla and King Kong are back together on the big screen (and HBO Max), nearly six decades after the debut of the original Japanese film featuring the dueling duo. This is the fourth installment in the Monsterverse franchise, which includes 2014’s Godzilla, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

The titans are back at it in Godzilla vs. Kong

This latest saga starts with scientists holding King Kong captive on Skull Island, presumably to protect him from Godzilla. But after Godzilla attacks Pensacola, Florida with breath as deadly as a horde of maskless spring breakers, Kong’s handlers cart him off to Antarctica to lure the giant lizard to the center of the Earth. Got it? Good, because that’s about all of the silly story you really need to know.

As in prior films, the humans are an afterthought. Alexander Skarsgård and Rebecca Hall use a young deaf Maori girl to lure Kong to Hollow Earth as Brian Tyree Henry (If Beale Street Could Talk), as a podcasting conspiracy theorist, works with Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) to expose an evil CEO’s manmade threat to the titans. All of it is mind-numbingly stupid but sets up the big battle showdown in the finalé.  Sit back, await the neon lit buildings (there are a LOT of them), and let the mindless assault on the senses commence.

The big lizard titan basking in the neon glow of Hong Kong in Godzilla vs. Kong. 

Director Adam Wingard (You’re Next) actually succeeds where prior Monsterverse films have failed miserably. He gives fans what they want to see – more action, more monsters and way better visual effects. Unlike Godzilla: King of the Monsters, this time we can actually see the monsters clearly.

And with screenwriter Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnorak) sharing writing duties with Monsterverse veteran Max Borenstein, King Kong becomes way more relatable. He learns sign language from the cute deaf girl (Kaylee Hottle) and the story leans into its Land of the Lost-type ridiculousness. It’s still a completely moronic film, but for nostalgic King Kong and Godzilla fans, at least this sequel looks good.

REEL FACTS

• To prepare for the film, director Adam Wingard says he revisited the Godzilla and King Kong films he watched as a kid, to reconnect with the emotional empathy he felt for the titans.

• Georgia-born deaf actress Kaylee Hottle, who portrays the deaf Maori girl Jia in the film, is herself from an all-deaf family.

• The three prior Monsterverse films respectively ended up on the The Reelness 10 Worst Films of 2014, 10 Worst Films of 2017 and 10 Worst Films of 2019. This one will escape that fate. Success!

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