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Review: The MonsterVerse gets it right with the wildly entertaining 'Godzilla vs. Kong'

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(L foreground-r) KAYLEE HOTTLE as Jia with KONG in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA VS. KONG,” a Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures release. (Photo: Warmer Bros.)

Godzilla vs. Kong
4 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Adam Wingard
Writers: Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Rated: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: Driven by their primal instincts, Godzilla and King Kong face off in a fight that could determine the fate of humankind.

Review: They’ve done it. They’ve finally done it. It’s taken Legendary and Warner Bros. four films to make an unabashed MonsterVerse film that captures the spirit and mayhem of the classic Godzilla and King Kong films that I watched as a child. “Godzilla vs. Kong” delivers everything I hoped for as it features stunning special effects, just enough story to set the stakes, a nod to classic sci-fi literature and a massive final battle that nearly takes out all of Hong Kong.

Building off the Hollow Earth ideas that were presented in “Kong: Skull Island,” “Godzilla vs. Kong” offers audiences a look into the magical underworld where the massive creatures come from. Yes, it is heavy on fiction and light on actual science but the Hollow Earth theory, the belief that there is a lush subterranean world located near the Earth’s center, has long been a source for creative exploration (Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” being the most famous example). It’s beautiful and begs to be seen on the biggest screen available.

The narrative is built around Kong, who has been contained on Skull Island in a giant dome that keeps Godzilla from sensing his presence. Tucked away from the world, Kong is safe. Safe until Apex Cybernetics decides that deep in the heart of the Earth is an energy source that could power the company’s latest experiments. Uncertain of how to find this mystical power, Apex convinces Monarch, the scientists studying Kong, to transport him to Antarctica where Kong, driven by a primal need to return to his home, will lead them to the heart of the hollow Earth.

Godzilla, sensing the presence of another alpha monster, looks to intercept and defeat Kong long before he and Apex reach their destination.

The human element of the film is provided by scientist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) who works for Monarch and her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) as they journey with Kong to Antarctica. They are essentially team Kong. Team Godzilla sees Millie Bobby Brown return as Madison Russell, the daughter of scientists Mark and Emma Russell, and is joined by classmate Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) and Burnie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), an Apex employee who believes that the company is hiding a secret that could upend the world.

Director Adam Wingard has done a nice job of using the human characters to build a frame for the spectacle of giant monsters fighting in various locations. It is Kong who is given a true narrative arc. I love that. His name is on the marquee, the film should be about him. Godzilla isn’t given as much space to further develop their character. The monster lurks at the edges of the screen (beneath the water) for most of the movie. That’s okay, Kong is likely the more intellectual of the two. He has also managed to keep the tone consistent. It's smarter than it probably appears, but it isn't trying to be an intellectual experience. More than anything, “Godzilla vs. Kong” works because it remembers to be fun.