The Clash of the Titans remake we all really wanted.
Since Godzilla established dominance over all of Earth’s other alphas, Monarch keeps Kong hidden to prevent a clash of these alpha Titans. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) monitors Kong’s temperament via his bond to a deaf native girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), but the beast is outgrowing his habitat. When Godzilla mysteriously attacks an industrial facility in Florida unprovoked after three years, the Apex corp taps Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to confirm a new power source in “the hollow earth,” a place all Titans are theorized to have originated from and instinctively know how to return to. Meanwhile, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) begs her father to discover what might be causing Godzilla’s errant behavior based upon a theory suggested by Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) in his “Titan Truth Podcast” that Apex is up to something sinister… and the King of the Monsters senses it. One thing is clear: when these two meet, stay out of their way.
Following the events of director Michael Dougherty’s previous installment, Adam Wingard takes over duties and grants audiences the match-up being teased since Kong: Skull Island: the box office brawl of the century. With big-name stars like Will Smith no longer driving brand recognition for guaranteed attendance, it has fallen to intellectual properties for built-in buzz. Sure, it’s technically another remake and more interested in revenue than cinematic art, but audiences seeking distractions bigger than themselves to help forget their own troubles for a couple hours is the order of the day. Looking ready-made for a Universal Studios movie ride, will the pandemic-delayed clash between two of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars turn out to be worth the wait?
While the three previous films centered around Monarch and their Titans showing lots of good stuff diluted with confusing sci-fi and forgettable character fluff, Godzilla vs. Kong has honed the formula between holding viewer attention and essential foreshadowing before delivering everything promised. There are still huge leaps of faith along the way — travel times between global fighting locations fails to suspend disbelief — but the tradeoff is an experience brimming with some of the best visuals and sound ever produced for a big screen disaster flick. This brawl begs to be seen on the biggest screen possible coupled with an ear-bleeding surround-sound system.
GvK also borrows from a lot of sources: Deep Blue Sea, The Poseidon Adventure, The Core, Journey to the Center of the Earth to name a few. The fictional science is more Jules Verne than Arthur C. Clarke, and answers often add up to more questions than these movies care to answer, the biggest being “Who builds all these ancient ruins and such all over the place?” While King of the Monsters was fun but exhausting, concentrating on fewer critters to fight raises the stakes and gives fans more of what they want. Unlike most of the plots of the previous three outings, GvK not only builds upon its own mythology but makes better sense, a boon since these films are about seeing giant creatures slugging it out for dominance. Predictably, Kyle Chandler’s Mark Russell is still pretty useless, and there’s a better chance of keeping Carl from “The Walking Dead” in the house than keep Millie’s Godzilla-loving Madison on the same continent.
All of the ancient ruins on the bottom of the ocean or deep within the Earth’s crust were clearly made by someone at sometime, yet four films have gone by with zero answers. Are these seeds setting up something more or just crutches to move the story along and keep eyeballs glued to the screen? The usual end credit sequence neither hints at more to come nor provides an after-credit teaser; is this the curtain call for Monarch? Only time and box office receipts will tell.
Godzilla vs. Kong is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction, brief language, and the consequences of tinkering with the laws of nature.
Four skull recommendation out of four