The sequel to “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and “Kong: Skull Island,” dispenses with a whole lotta plot rather quickly to make room for the main event, a cage match between the two Titans.
That’s not a spoiler; it’s an inevitability. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Before the crash-bang-boom of the movie’s climax, the story begins with Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) pitching an idea to Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir), the big thinking, but possibly evil Elon Musk-esque CEO of Apex Cybernetix. Lind is convinced that solutions for the planet’s energy problems lie in the unexplored Hollow Earth, a subterranean world deep within Earth’s core. Long believed to be the natural home of King Kong, Lind proposes transporting the giant ape from Skull Island to act as a tour guide.
Meanwhile, there’s trouble in Pensacola, Florida. Godzilla has re-emerged with a grudge against Apex. As he lays waste to the company’s research facility a CNN headline screams, “Godzilla is no longer a saviour.”
Inside the plant nosy podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) works feverishly to expose Apex and their plans for world-domination. He’s aided by Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison), teen do-gooders who are convinced there is something twitchy causing Godzilla’s recent erratic behaviour. “There’s something provking him that we’re not seeing,” she says.
That’s a lotta plot and I haven’t even mentioned Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the youngster who teaches Kong sign language or the new creatures from Hollow Earth.
“Godzilla Vs. Kong” may be jam packed with up-to-the-minute references about podcasts and genetic memory, and hot button notions about big bad corporations and conspiracy theories, but make no mistake, at its giant heart, this is an old-fashioned creature feature.
Hall and Skarsgård et al. acquit themselves well enough to keep the action moving along, but this movie belongs to the big guys, Kong and Godzilla. The quaint days of actors in rubber suits playing movie Kaijū are gone, replaced by CGI beasts who battle on land, underwater and under the Earth’s crust. There’s nothing particularly organic about them, unlike Willis O’Brien’s original stop-motion Kong or Haruo Nakajima’s lumbering Godzilla, but “Godzilla Vs. Kong” manages to inject some personality into its leading men.
They are a classic big screen match-up. A furry Redford and Newman. A monstrous Bonnie & Clyde. Kong is the Woody to Godzilla’s Buzz Lightyear. The giant ape is introspective, soulful while Godzilla is decisive, quick to action. Together they are a fearsome yet kitschy kaiju duo who deliver the battle scenes that provide the payoff after the first reel’s exposition and plot dump.
It’s fun and franchise fans will get a kick out of the action but “Godzilla Vs. Kong” doesn’t have the social subtext of other films in the series. There is talk of the end of the world but metaphors on the devastating effects of nuclear weapons or the exploitation of nature for personal gain are buried underneath the rubble left behind by the final showdown between the titans.
For a movie about two heavyweight creatures “Godzilla Vs. Kong,” with its big battles and “Guardians of the Galaxy” style soundtrack—”The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies and the like decorate the score—feels surprisingly lightweight.