“Godzilla vs. Kong” Movie Review

Anybody who enjoys “Godzilla” movies should crave director Adam Wingard’s “Godzilla vs. Kong” (*** OUT OF ****), a bizarre, sci-fi, fantasy that pits the eponymous Titans against each other for their second historic cinematic showdown. Initially, in 1962, these adversaries clashed in Japanese director Ishirô Honda’s “King Kong Vs. Godzilla” but neither opponent could claim victory.

Contrived as Wingard’s “Godzilla” entry is in the Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse franchise, “G vs. K” doesn’t end in a stalemate! Remember, death isn’t perpetual in sci-fi as Hollywood has shown us. Writers Eric Pearson of “Thor: Ragnarok” and Max Borenstein of “Godzilla” (2014) have whipped up a super-sized smackdown with several surprises based on a story by Terry Rossio of “Godzilla” (1998) and Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields of “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” (2019).

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Of course, the ideal spectator will eagerly embrace this nonsense with nothing short of enthusiasm, no matter how staggering its outlandish shenanigans are. Moreover, the global arena for this PG-13 epic gives these opponents more than enough elbow room. Wingard and his scribes spout Hollow Earth theory when the two Titans aren’t clashing in gladiatorial creature feature violence.

Seven minutes shy of two hours, this “Godzilla” installment introduces another fabled monster from the Japanese Toho franchise as well as a newbie from the Warner Brothers/Legendary Monsterverse. Unlike the WB’s first “Godzilla” (2014) where shadows shrouded the king-sized kaiju during his nocturnal depredations, “G vs. K” has the terrible twosome tangling in broad daylight for maximum impact. The roving sea battle and the horrendous battle royal in downtown Hong Kong are splendidly orchestrated without any inclement weather obscuring the view.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” unfolds on Skull Island where the huge ape resides in idyllic splendor, perhaps a little too idyllic. Uprooting a tree, Kong strips away its branches and then hurls it like a javelin into the sky. Surprise of surprises, this crudely fashioned lance impales itself improbably in the heavens to reveal the presence of an immense bio-dome.

The lance shattered some of the panels, like a brick smashing a plate-glass window. Kong has been confined within this colossal enclosure for his own safety. He is in the same predicament Jim Carrey faced in “The Truman Show” (1998). Basically, Monarch has designed the bio-dome to protect him from his sworn enemy Godzilla.

Updating the Kong legend, the writers reveal Kong and Godzilla have been foes since the dawn of history. Allusions to their rivalry appear in many sacred ancient texts of dead civilizations. An anthropologist, Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall of “The Town”), has spent ten years on Skull Island studying Kong. A deaf, indigenous, young native girl, Jia (newcomer Kaylee Hottle), rescued by Kong after a cataclysmic storm wiped out all the natives, lives with Andrews now. Jia uses sign language to communicate with Kong, but she hasn’t told Andrews that they understand each other.

Meantime, sinister Apex Cybernetics Corp. founder & CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir of “Lowriders”) approaches a disgraced geologist, Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård of “Straw Dogs”), who has published a book about Hollow Earth Theory.

Simmons recruits Lind to comb those subterranean realms for an energy source which mankind can use to thwart Godzilla’s future depredations. What better guide than King Kong to escort Lind and company through those provinces?

Kong trusts only Jia, and Jia assures Kong that his ancestors hailed from Hollow Earth. The opening to the fabled land lies via an icy portal in Antarctica. Meantime, Godzilla wreaks havoc when the kaiju raids an Apex lab at its Pensacola, Florida, facility in an apparently unprovoked attack.

Discretion prevents me from revealing the real reason behind Godzilla’s attack because it would ruin a major revelation. In another subplot, conspiracy theory podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry of “White Boy Rick”), who works for Apex, has been biding his time before he blows the whistle on Simmons. Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown of “Godzilla, King of the Monsters”) and her geeky computer bud Josh (Julian Dennsion of “Deadpool 2”) join Bernie.

Our heroes are horrified when they discover Apex has been incubating those hideous Skull Island Skullcrawlers at its Pensacola plant. No, Godzilla didn’t raid the facility simply to annihilate the Skullcrawlers.

The voyage to Antarctica finds a restless Kong shackled to the deck of a ship and later hoisted aloft by helicopters. Initially, an armada of U.S. Navy warships provide an escort for Kong. Since he is no longer entombed on Skull Island, Kong finds himself at the mercy of Godzilla.

Those wicked dorsal fins ripple the surface of the ocean as Godzilla ploughs a path through the phalanx of ships, sinking some along the way on a collision course for Kong. Indeed, it looks like curtains for Kong. Happily, somebody removes Kong’s giant shackles, and the two gargantuans generate a typhoon of terror. This briny blue brawl constitutes little more than a warm-up act, but Godzilla fans will shadow box with each blow they swap. One classic moment has Kong clobbering Godzilla with a spectacular right cross.

If you’re counting the films in the WB/Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse, “Godzilla vs. Kong” qualifies as the fourth. The Monsterverse doesn’t observe chronological order. Garth Edwards’ “Godzilla” (2014) emerged first and tagged the monsters as Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, a.k.a. MUTOs or Titans. “Kong: Skull Island” (2017), the “Godzilla” sequel/prequel spanning World War II to 1973, bowed second.

In “Kong: Skull Island,” President Truman created the ultra-secret government agency Monarch to maintain tabs on the MUTOs. Basically, Monarch runs through the franchise like a thread. “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” (2019) picked up after “Godzilla,” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” follows in the aftermath. Mankind’s obligatory meddling with nature triggers far-reaching complications.

Essentially, the Monarch vs. Apex rivalry separates good humans from evil. The preposterous hocus-pocus that drives this titular showdown takes its cues from the “Alien” film franchise with its paranoid corporation. Altogether, “Godzilla vs. Kong” surpasses itself when our monstrous rivals put up their dukes and knock each other for loops.

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