Dog’s Movie House: “Godzilla Vs. Kong” Is All About The Monsters, And That’s A Good Thing!

In “Godzilla vs. Kong” we find Godzilla in something of a state. He’s pissed off about something and he’s attacking people and places for the first time. He’s looking for something, but his behavior is scaring the crap out of people. Apex Cybernetics (led by the charismatic Demian Bechir as Walter Simmons) plans to combat the new threat by teaming up with Monarch, the monster-monitoring agency featured in the first three films, to gain a power-source from the center of the Hollow Earth, a thriving ecosystem in the earth’s core where all the Titans allegedly came from. The folks at Monarch are needed because they’re taking care of Kong, the iconic primate last seen in “Kong: Skull Island.” In the fifty years since the time that film was set, Kong as grown too big for the habitat and has to be moved, and Monarch sees the Hollow Earth as a possible new home for the big ape.

Unfortunately for Monarch and Kong, leaving the protection of the island leaves the big guy open and vulnerable to attack by Godzilla, who will brook no challenge to his authority as King Of The Monsters. Let the smackdown of the century commence! (Of course, there are more sinister forces at work behind the scenes and it’s only a matter of time before both Kong and Godzilla are in their sights.)

For fans of these two iconic monsters, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is a delight. Director Adam Wingard, previous known for low budget thrillers like “You’re Next” and “Blair Witch” has an obvious love for these two creatures that shows in every frame of this magnificently crafted film. Godzilla and Kong have never looked, sounded or fought better. It’s a love letter for every kid who watched those old Toho classics on Saturday afternoons and wondered what wonders could be seen if modern special effects could be applied to these creatures.

The story is Jules Verne inspired sci-fi lunacy, presented in the best possible way. Nobody believes there is actually an ecosystem at the center of the earth, but this alternate reality is so lovingly crafted that for two hours, at least, you can suspend your disbelief and wonder what such a world would actually be like.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way: the character development and motivations for some of the characters is lacking in favor of pushing to story along. Characters like Bryan Tyree Henry’s Bernie, a conspiracy theorist who helps Madison Russell (a key figure from the last film played again by Millie Bobby Brown) find out what Apex is up to, is given no background for his motivation. It’s okay though: Henry does a good job of serving as the film’s primary source of comic relief. I was especially confused by the motivations of Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri). He’s working for the bad guys, but he’s the adult son of the Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watannabe) who was Godzilla’s biggest champion. No reason is given for Ren’s decision to work against the big green guy.

That said, these questions would have more pertinence in a movie that wasn’t about giant monsters kicking the crap out of each other. If you go to a movie like “Godzilla vs. Kong” expecting to see “Citizen Kane” may I suggest to consult a doctor afterward. The performances by the human actors are actually quite good for the material with which they have to work. Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgard are standouts as well as the aforementioned Henry. The human MVP, though, is a little girl named Kaylee Hottle who plays Jia, the last surviving member of the Iwi, the tribe who lived in harmony with Kong on Skull Island. Jia has a special relationship with Kong and is the only human the ape trusts. The quite moments between these two unlikely friends are among the most dramatically satisfying in the film.

The real MVPs of course are the two titanic title monsters (say that three times fast, heh), and in this “Godzilla vs. Kong” delivers the goods and then some. There are two epic smackdowns between the two and there is a definite winner, although not in the way you might think. There’s also a bonus fight near the finale of the film where a legendary Toho creation makes an updated appearance. Not only is the effects work awesome (credit to John “DJ” Dejardin and his team for some outstanding work) but the way these battles are choreographed are just amazing. This is the first time in four films you really get to see Godzilla go all-out and he’s freaking terrifying. He’s fast and strong like a reptilian hurricane and, unlike the other films, he gets that atomic breath of his going early and often to devastating effect. Kong is also wonderfully rendered, but in his case, the wonder is all in his facial expressions. You can actually see him adapting on the fly when he’s faced with a large, more powerful predator. His facial expressions during the first battle at sea are especially impressive. You can tell he knows he’s at a disadvantage right away as Godzilla is at home in the water and Kong tries to use the ships around him to help level the playing field. It gives the viewer a chance to bond and empathize with Kong that gives the film a little more emotional heft than the film otherwise would have had.

If “Godzilla vs. Kong” is any indication, I would love to see more movies in this universe. The action and effects are off-the-charts amazing and the story delivers on its promise. The film doesn’t reinvent the wheel but boy does it give it a major upgrade. If you love these types of monster movies then “Godzilla vs. Kong” is one for the ages. 4 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is streaming on HBO Max and in select theaters now!

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