By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
After the somewhat frustrating self-seriousness of 2014’s Godzilla and 2019’s Godzilla: King of Monsters, a team of writers and director Adam Wingard have managed to take the goofy fun elements and exciting action of Kong: Skull Island to help steer this latest entry onto its proper course. Even though the development and plotting of the human element in the film is mostly straight-faced, Wingard’s installment has a prominent element of comedy, as well as some mad, science fiction, B-movie qualities that make the movie a thoroughly entertaining experience. And when it comes to some down and dirty monster fighting, Godzilla vs. Kong definitely delivers the goods, regardless of whose side one supports.
Set five years after the events of Godzilla: King of Monsters, the movie begins with humanity’s coping with the aftermath and destruction caused by those events. Monarch, the organization in charge of monitoring and containment of “Titan activity,” continues to do what they can to protect the human race, while attempting to maintain some harmony with the continued existence of Godzilla and Kong, who has been relocated to a containment facility after Skull Island becomes inhabitable for the giant creature. Meanwhile, a successful tech company named Apex works on a secret project to “help” humanity deal with the titan problem. As their work seems to attract the wrath of Godzilla, Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir) seeks the help of Hollow Earth theorist and scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) to help him discover a powerful source of energy beneath the Earth’s crust to fuel a weapon to defeat the titans.
With a screenplay by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, based on a story by Terry Rosio, Michael Dougherty, and Zach Shields, Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong is simply a damn good and enjoyable piece of silly popcorn cinema. While nevertheless maintaining a certain degree of gravity, the film never takes itself so seriously that the entire affair becomes tiresome and boring. That was my main complaint with the first two Godzilla installments of this series. The filmmakers behind Godzilla and Godzilla: King of Monsters got too caught up in making some serious science fiction that they forgot what makes these types of movies fun and exciting. At least Kong: Skull Island keeps things fun, thrilling, and adventurous, but also has an element of silliness that helps lighten things on an entertaining level. Thankfully, this installment has the best of both worlds and the result is a joyful and explosive marriage of monster goodness.
The entire cast all seem to be on the same page too, with everyone relishing the material and acting accordingly. In addition to returning actors, Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler, the movie features some great additions in Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgard, Julian Dennison, Shun Oguri, Elsa Gonzalez, and Demian Bichir. Bichir is particularly enjoyable as the ego-maniacal CEO of Apex, a man who wants to save the world, but also desires the fame that would come with it. The real standout, however, is Brian Tyree Henry who stars as conspiracy theorist/podcaster Bernie Hayes. Henry definitely keeps the mood in hilarious and fun with some exceptional comic delivery and timing.
And I must say that I am also impressed with the skills of director Adam Wingard who pulls off this movie as the best installment of the series so far. Wingard obviously has a great mind for the material and knows well what will keep audiences invested and entertained. Though I only gave this film a 3 out of 4 Star rating, it is a very enthusiastic and satisfying one. Make no mistake, Godzilla vs. Kong is a B-movie, but it is a great one at that. The movie opens in theaters on March 31, 2021, but will also be available for streaming on HBO Max for a limited time.