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“Godzilla vs. Kong” is a stunning reunion of veteran film stars

The most compelling characters are the monsters themselves

“Godzilla vs. Kong” delivers exactly what the title promises — two giant monsters fighting and creating chaos around them. The latest installment in the MonsterVerse franchise repackages the 1962 film “King Kong vs. Godzilla” for a modern audience with terrifyingly stunning visual effects and immersive sound design. 

The film draws inspiration from the well-established lore of Godzilla and Kong, which date back to the era of the silent cinema. For the hardcore fans, there are many visuals paying homage to the 1933 film “King Kong," as well as to the many iconic Japanese Godzilla films from the ‘50s and ‘60s. 

In the movie, cities like Hong Kong transform into dazzling arenas for the viewer to marvel at the sheer size of the two contestants. Why is a radioactive lizard punching a prehistoric gorilla? The movie answers with a devious smile followed by an innocent shrug. Although the fights are the main show, the film woefully attempts to push a story that lacks any substance or creativity.

Instead of focusing on the titular stars, the narrative often deviates from the most interesting parts of the film to focus on the human drama unfolding underneath the monsters’ feet. The plot around the human characters is paper-thin at best and brings the pace of the film to a screeching halt. However, conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes, played by Brian Tyree Henry, is the saving grace of this film. His role is more of a caricature than a fully fleshed-out human, but Henry has the remarkable ability to elevate a cardboard character into a genuinely funny and relatable person. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast brings nothing new to the plate. Frankly, the rest of the actors are forgettable, if not entirely disposable.

The true leads are Godzilla and Kong, and the visual effects artists outdid themselves bringing two veteran film stars onto the big screen — or the small screen for those watching the film on HBO Max. The details of each monster, from Godzilla’s glistening scales to Kong’a scratched chest, almost make one believe the monsters might just exist in the real world. In any case, the visual effects of this film are a significant improvement from the previous entries in the MonsterVerse. The 2019 film “Godzilla: King of Monsters” featured some of the worst special effects in recent memory, punctuated by terribly lit fights marred by dust and rain.

Additionally, the fighting scenes are truly breathtaking. Dynamic camerawork, well-thought-out choreography, creative sets and earth-shattering sound design all give a visceral quality to each blow, kick and bite between Godzilla and Kong. Even if the story around the fighting is mind-numbingly generic, the fights alone are worth the admission price.

Unlike other recent blockbuster movies, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is wonderfully self-aware. The premise is ludicrous, and the film makes no excuses for it. If Godzilla and Kong want to fight, then that is what they are going to do. The film's human characters do not question the reality of the situation — and neither should the viewer.