It’s hard to keep track of so many monster films and how they relate to each other.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is the sequel to “Godzilla King of Monsters” (2019), which also featured Kyle Chandler. That film was a sequel to “Kong: Skull Island” (2017), the Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson post-Vietnam war flick.

Now, we have two cinema legends in one film for the first time since 1962. The actors take a huge step back so the visual effects can take center stage, which means actors like Alexander Skarsgard and Rebecca Hall have little to do on screen but look up and react.

If you know anything about franchises, (especially when it comes to Warner Bros.’ inability to put a period at the end of anything), you know before the film starts that both money-making entities will survive to star in another sequel.

We begin on Skull Island, where Kong has remained since the events of the 1970s, now enclosed in a massive virtual environment (think “The Truman Show”) controlled by Dr. Ilene Andrews (Hall) who has worked and cared for Kong for over a decade. APEX Engineering sends theorist Nathan Lind (Skarsgard) to convince Andrews to move Kong to an entry point leading to “Hollow Earth” in Antarctica.

That’s where scientists believe these titans originated from. Godzilla has reappeared off the coast of Pensacola, provoked by something at APEX headquarters. Andrews wants to keep the two rival titans away from each other for fear of the massive destruction they would cause.

Madison Russell (Bobby Brown), a curious teenager and her friends, understand Godzilla hasn’t returned unprovoked and head to Hong Kong to find out what APEX is really up to.

All of the best visual effects in the world can’t make a script sound better. It doesn’t help having Kyle Chandler (basically a cameo) sinking lines, “Right now Godzilla is out there hurting people,” as if he were Laura Dern in “Jurassic Park.” The sound and the effects are as massive as the creatures, but it’s all noise, like some heavy metal music where you can’t hear anything that’s being said.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” won’t make a fan out of anyone unimpressed with previous iterations. At least Peter Jackson’s 2005 version of Kong focused on the actors and contained flawed mediocre character development. It’s non-existent with this installment.

The entire cast of humans might have well been CGI characters for the robotic performances they deliver. The one saving grace is deaf actress Kaylee Hottle who plays Jia, the one person who can communicate with Kong.

What happens to all those people in the buildings Kong and Godzilla are stepping on? Who cleans up their mess? Why is there an Earth inside the Earth? Don’t humans need protective gear in the center of the Earth? None of these questions are addressed, but they do make it a point to say Kong has grown in captivity to shoot down anyone wondering why he and rival Godzilla are now the same height. Priorities.

The third act of the film takes us into “Transformers” territory, literally, and the script’s stupidity reaches all new depths. It’s understandable audiences (and critics) wanting to celebrate the return of huge, bombastic cinema; we have been inundated (and pacified) with an eclectic variety of small films during the pandemic. We deserve, however, something better than “Godzilla vs. Kong” to mark our return to theaters.

Final Thought: Visual effects that scream, instead of delight. Hollow brain is what you might experience after this adventure into Hollow Earth.

Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. Visit texasartfilm.com.

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