Director: Adam Wingard
Date: March 31, 2021
PG-13 | 1 hour 53 minutes
“Godzilla vs. Kong” won’t revolutionize the giant monster movie for years to come, but filmmaker Adam Wingard’s latest delivers plenty of kaiju brawling and hollow earth sci-fi weirdness in a creative, fast-moving package.
Released on HBO Max and in theaters March 31, the film picks up five years after the events of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” but also serves as the sequel to the 1973-set “Kong: Skull Island.”
Humans and the massive creatures known as Titans have reached a tenuous peace since Godzilla defeated Mothra in battle, and Godzilla roams free while King Kong remains observed in containment on Skull Island.
Trouble arises when Godzilla breaks the peace for no apparent reason, attacking an Apex Cybernetics facility in Pensacola, Florida.
But Titan-truther podcast host and undercover Apex employee Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) doesn’t think the attack was random. Soon, Bernie and “King of the Monsters” alum Madison Russell (Millie Bobbie Brown) find themselves amid a vast corporate conspiracy.
Meanwhile, Godzilla’s attack spurs Apex CEO Walter Simmons to commission a journey to Earth’s hollow core.
He recruits Hollow Earth theorist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to lead the expedition with King Kong joining as the (unwilling) navigator. Monarch linguist Dr. Ilene Andrews and her deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) also join in an effort to keep Kong calm enough for the journey.
That’s a lot of moving parts for a movie called “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but the film’s wacky plot mechanics whizz by. There’s scarcely a moment to breathe, and while the effect smooths over the narrative’s clarity somewhat, it’s a shrewd decision by Wingard.
For the most part, Wingard uses the concurring plotlines to build tension and lay the groundwork for the third act. If acts one and two don’t set up King Kong being in Hollow Earth, Godzilla can’t scorch through the entire planet to get there later.
Make no mistake, the draw here is absolutely still the giant monsters fighting — but Wingard’s ability to make this ridiculous, beautiful sci-fi nonsense thoroughly palatable is what differentiates the film from its immediate predecessors.
The battles are superb; ferocious brawls that steamroll cities and ebb with creativity. Watching King Kong put his shoulder back in its socket using a building or wield an axe crafted from the bones of Godzilla’s ancestors is electric, and Godzilla might shine more than Kong does.
Wingard’s resume may have taken a hit in some viewers’ eyes with “Death Note” and his “Blair Witch” remake/sequel, but with another strong addition here, he’s solidifying himself as a versatile, reliable filmmaker.
His visual approach fails to best genre staple “Pacific Rim,” but beyond that, this is the best looking American kaiju movie yet. In a movie where the details of the plot matter less than the pivotal moments prefacing the action, Wingard’s ability to juggle this much exposition and still come away with a thrilling action film is impressive.
Some might come away disappointed that the film keeps as much of its focus on humans as it does, but Wingard’s film is beautifully paced and visually ambitious. All in all, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is a worthy rehashing of the two Titans’ infamous rivalry.
“Godzilla vs. Kong,” rated PG-13, is now available in theaters and on HBO Max.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly had Wingard’s last name wrong and has been updated.