Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the first big event movie of 2021, one best experienced on the hugest screen possible. The scope and spectacle of this newest in WB’s Monsterverse makes it my favorite of the four in the series. Carrying over select characters and plot points, no time is wasted when it comes to delivering fun and exciting set pieces. Fans of both Godzilla and King Kong will be satisfied. Horror director Adam Wingard proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that he can handle the booming spectacle of a monstrous showdown. 

As humanity attempts a careful coexistence with the Titans in the wake of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla begins carving out a path of unwarranted destruction. Stumped by the monster’s sudden mean streak, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friend Josh (Julian Dennison) track down a mysterious conspiracy theorist (Brian Tyree Henry) who they hope will have answers. 

Meanwhile, Apex CEO Walter (Demian Bichir) convinces a failed author, Nathan (Alexander Skarsgard), to undertake a harrowing journey to Hollow Earth in order to recover a potential power source. Hollow Earth lies at the planet’s core, and Nathan wants to use King Kong as the Titan guide to gain entry. Kong, who is being kept in a giant research facility on Skull Island, shares a special connection with Dr. Ilene (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle). Guided by the prospect of bringing Kong to his rightful home, Ilene and Jia join Nathan (accompanied by a large array of transport ships) to transport the beast. 

It’s not hard to see where the film goes from here—Kong and Godzilla cross paths, and all hell breaks loose. The sheer amount of structural damage and innocent bystanders killed is astronomically high. There aren’t simply one or two exciting sequences, and nothing further to note. Every battle (and every scene with either monster) plays out in broad daylight, where the impressive CGI is able to fully flex its eye-popping slickness. Shrouding in darkness to cover up noticeable flaws, to the point where you can barely see what’s happening, is a thing of the past.

Dialogue is frequently meta and funny, avoiding taking things too seriously. Brian Tyree Henry is host to many of most hilarious lines. Human characters are unique and interesting and don’t all have the same boring paper-thin qualities. Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison, who was decent but forgettable in King of the Monsters, gets far better material in this Vs. film. Out of the new characters, Kaylee Hottle’s Jia emerges as the front-runner. Her emotional connection to Kong left me firmly on Team Kong for the majority of the runtime. Sorry, Godzilla!

What sets Godzilla vs. Kong apart from the other Monsterverse entries is that Wingard is having fun with this material. In other projects like You’re Next, Wingard flirts with situational humor—he plays it up even more this time around. This is a movie completely removed from the dead-serious tone of 2014’s Godzilla. The willingness to embrace the sillier aspects, and pump up the crowd-pleasing moments, makes this one of the best big-budget blockbusters of the year. Godzilla vs. Kong is in theaters everywhere, and currently streaming on HBO Max.

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