Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
"Godzilla vs. Kong" stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, and Demián Bichir. Released on March 31, 2021, the film has humanity getting caught in an epic showdown between Godzilla and King Kong.
The film is directed by Adam Wingard, who also directed films such as "A Horrible Way to Die", "You're Next", "The Guest", and "Blair Witch". It is the fourth film in the MonsterVerse. We've seen the Man of Steel take on the Dark Knight. We've witnessed the super-soldier battle the egotistical iron man. Heck, we even experienced a confrontation between an unstoppable murderer with a hockey mask and the king of nightmares. Now, it's time for a different kind of showdown. This time, it's the giant lizard with an atomic breath versus the big ape from Skull Island. We've been waiting for this pivotal moment ever since we saw the cave painting from "Godzilla: King of the Monsters", and after experiencing a couple of delays in its release schedule, it has finally arrived to refuel our kaiju pleasures. Let's hope that the wait is worth it. This wasn't the first time that these two humongous icons shared the same screen. In 1962, the world was introduced to "King Kong vs. Godzilla", which saw Godzilla go toe-to-toe against the "Eighth Wonder of the World". Sure, it looked pretty cheesy in terms of the quality and visuals, but it was seen as one of the most incredible things that audiences have ever experienced back then. Two monsters from two other classics battling one another for supremacy. What more could you ask for? Many years later, Hollywood is now reviving this riveting battle for modern audiences as part of its ongoing MonsterVerse that started with the 2014 "Godzilla" reboot. Was it epic enough to get audiences back into theaters? Let's find out. Better get your nostalgic pants, people. This is going to be a wild ride.
The film focuses on two groups of humans: one that protects King Kong and the other that sides with Godzilla. "Team Kong" consists of geologist Nathan Lind (Skarsgård), anthropological linguist Ilene Andrews (Hall), and her adoptive daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who forms a special bond with the ape. "Team Godzilla" consists of Madison Russell (Brown), conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Henry), and Madison's friend Josh Valentine (Dennison). As Kong's protectors journey to find him a new home, they ran into a peeved-off Godzilla who, for some reason, decides to destroy everything in his path instead of protecting them. Madison, along with Bernie and Josh, goes on a cross-country journey to investigate Godzilla's mysterious behavior. As the two titans clash with one another in a "last monster standing" match of the century, the humans discover a much bigger threat that could spark the end of humankind. There are two major things that the films in the MonsterVerse have in common. They have giant monster fights and plenty of human interactions that happen in-between. While these films succeed in delivering the epic monster beat-em-ups and lots of destruction, they usually forget to allow stronger storytelling and fully developed characters to coexist with their visual flair. This was the case for 2019's "Godzilla: King of the Monsters", which I found to be the weakest in the franchise despite its enjoyable moments. "Godzilla vs. Kong" appears to be no exception as it replaced narrative depth with blockbuster-level action. Whether it's a painfully obvious flaw or not will depend on your expectations towards it. If you don't care that much about the story and want to watch a giant lizard battle a 4,000-pound ape, chances are you'll easily have a blast with it, whether you're watching it at home via HBO Max or in a theater with the biggest screen possible. If you're hoping for a plot that's as emotional as the one in "Captain America: Civil War", however, you might as well give up after the first act. This is a simple and sometimes far-fetched kaiju film with the human characters doing stuff to help their favorite monsters. No more, no less. I thought it was a solid improvement over "King of the Monsters" regarding the action and some of its story elements. But it still has some issues that carried over from the previous installments. As I mentioned before, the film placed its focus on two groups of people instead of one. So you get two different stories for the price of one. Out of those two groups, I happened to have a soft spot for the one that protects Kong. While I didn't mind watching the Godzilla group in terms of the cast, I felt that the film's screenwriters, Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, managed to put a bit more effort into some of the heartfelt moments for the Kong group. Particularly the bond between Jia and Kong. The execution towards this direction was far from perfect, but it did give me a good reason to root for the ape's survival. Team Godzilla was only there to uncover a conspiracy, and that's basically it. The only element that helped make those elements entertaining was the performances. Millie Bobby Brown once again delivered a respectable performance as Madison, who is more confident and courageous than ever, and Julian Dennison was a fine addition as Josh. I also want to point out that Brian Tyree Henry was surprisingly one of the film's best parts. I wasn't expecting him to have plenty of comedic moments under his belt. Still, his performance as Bernie managed to impress me by providing a good mixture of humor and drama without being a dreaded nuisance. Skarsgård and Hall were also solid in their roles as Nathan Lind and Ilene Andrews, respectively. As for Bichir as Walter Simmons, his performance was fine, but his character was weak. But what about the action sequences, you may ask? The main attractions in every MonsterVerse installment in existence? To no one's surprise, they were nicely choreographed and immensely riveting. In other words, they were awesome! They might be the best monster sequences ever to be put on the big screen. Combined with its visual eye candy, lighter tone, and Wingard's direction, the action was just as energetic and destructive as any kaiju fan would expect it to be. Instead of all of the fight scenes only taking place at night like "Godzilla" and its follow-up, "Godzilla vs. Kong" has a couple of fight scenes that take place during the day. This resulted in the scenes being a bit easier to see what's happening on screen. The Hong Kong fight between the two titans was the only sequence that occurs at night, but the lighting helped make this intense showdown clearer to follow. I would also give the filmmakers credit for making Godzilla and Kong evenly matched despite their appearances. The other flaw I had with the film, aside from its story and characters, was its third act. Without giving too much away, I felt that the finale was predictable and a bit too safe narrative-wise. Admittedly, it was a cool sequence to watch and would cater to anyone who grew up watching the classic "Godzilla" films. When taking the story into consideration, it did feel like an obvious cop-out, in my opinion.
Overall, "Godzilla vs. Kong" is a matchup that's true to its word without being anything more, for better or worse. It's epic, it's visually breathtaking, and it's a lot of fun. The human aspect is still the thorn that irritates the franchise's back, but the action aspect remains a huge draw that never disappoints. With its entertaining cast, Wingard's direction, superb visuals, and fantastic action sequences, the film marks another solid chapter in the flawed yet highly entertaining MonsterVerse. It intends to be a mindless popcorn flick and nothing else, which may not impress everyone but will cater to those who need one. As of right now, there seem to be no plans from Hollywood to continue the franchise after "Godzilla vs. Kong". If the MonsterVerse does happen to continue, then I wouldn't mind going along with it as long as it keeps using the formula that worked in the previous installments. If not, that's also fine. This franchise has come a long way since 2014's "Godzilla", and I'm glad to see that it's still going strong despite its shortcomings. Now when are we getting a Godzilla/Pacific Rim crossover?
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