Godzilla vs. Kong

Rated PG-13, 113 minutes.

Now playing in theaters and available to stream for free for a month to HBO Max subscribers.

★★★

210402_drc_news_godzillaimg16.jpeg

(L-r) GODZILLA battles KONG in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA VS. KONG,” a Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures release.

What a journey it has been. So many characters. So much stupid. And lots of CGI-monster fights. But now, seven years of knocking over buildings and monkey business has brought us to the granddaddy faceoff: Godzilla vs. Kong. While it may be just as dumb, nonsensical, and overstuffed as everything that has come before, Adam Wingard’s clash of the titans is a big bowl of popcorn fun and easily the best entry in this new MonsterVerse.

In Godzilla vs. Kong, the two titular alpha legends go at it by land and sea. But narrative padding is thrown on, for better and worse. It involves almost all of Hollywood (including Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgård, Brian Tyree Henry, Millie Bobby Brown, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Demián Bichir, and some of Kyle Chandler. Oh, and a terrific, young deaf actress named Kaylee Hottle, who’s from Texas) trying to direct these two towering creatures toward global peace. Their mere existence has caused some bad people to make some bad decisions.

Godzilla is pissed. He seems to be torching cities without any rhyme or reason. So, the world must call upon Kong to cool this lizard king’s tantrum. However, the human characters uncover some dirt along the way, and it’s up to the good guys to make the right decisions before global annihilation takes the wheel.

Of all the movies in the MonsterVerse, Godzilla vs. Kong is by far the prettiest. Wingard, who made a substantial creative splash with his underappreciated 2014 genre deconstructor The Guest, was the perfect director to take the reins. Something tells me Wingard still recognized the logical blunders in this (because it’s not written by Wingard’s usual partner, Simon Barrett, and they’re intelligent storytellers). Still, he does his best to smear those IQ-dropping moments with eye-widening visuals. I mean, you’ll scratch your head bald with some of these character decisions and story beats. You try telling yourself it’s a good idea not to wear an oxygen mask when you’re in an otherworldly territory or near a giant burst of radiation. If you’re a mere book author, do you think you have the skills to fly a brand new ship like you’re Tom Cruise on the first go? I think not! But who cares? It’s all good fun.

Back to those visuals: There’s a point when our team of heroes enters Hollow Earth, which is an ancient underground ecosystem at our planet’s core. [Insert a Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth joke.] It’s like something out of Pandora or Interstellar. An entire movie could have been made about the science surrounding that area. How does it get sunlight? How does life exist there? Is there a slit in the earth? Is it just some miracle zone where you shouldn’t think about it? Yeah. Bet on the latter. It’s pretty much the torch of thought you should carry throughout the entire film.

So, the fights. Just how good are they? Is it more like 2014’s Godzilla, with only teases and pretending it’s being cool by not showing the beast just like Jaws (annoying), or is it like watching WWE SmackDown? Oh, they fight. A few times, and it’s good. Once you get through all the boring, heavy expositional scenes at the front, Wingard hits a stride where your popcorn will be gone before the final act. Godzilla and Kong kick each other, punch each other, and slam each other into buildings (that are, sadly, full of people—the movie wants you to forget about that fact). Kong gets a radiation-juiced Thor-like ax that he slaps Godzilla around with that’s about as chilling as the boss level of a great video game. Eye candy aplenty.

Despite being predictable and moronic as hell, Godzilla vs. Kong is a mega-entertaining palate cleanser amid the awards season. We’ve missed blockbuster filmmaking of this magnitude after a year of indie films, dramas, and low-key thrillers. So, rest assured, if you turn your brain off for two hours, expect to be struck by 2021’s first jolt of big-movie electricity.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work here, on FreshFiction.tv and on RottenTomatoes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.

Recommended for you

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!