The long wait is finally over. Groundwork for the epic battle between the chest-beating King Kong and the super-lizard Godzilla — that takes place in “Godzilla vs. Kong” — started in 2017 with “Kong: Skull Island.” It continued to grow two years later with “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Their showdown is not only finally opening but can be seen in local theaters as restrictions have been eased.
What has come out of those years of work and waiting is the equivalent of getting an incredibly fancy wrapped gift on Christmas only to discover a pair of plain black socks inside. There’s nothing wrong with socks. But, the way the anticipation built over time, a lot more was expected.
Seeing Godzilla and King Kong slug it out like two primordial heavyweights in “Godzilla vs. Kong” produces several rounds of solid action. The eons old battle between the pair reaches a fevered pitch on sea and on land and that action gets ramped up when a surprise mega-villain swoops in to join the fracas.
All of those efforts should have produced a more dramatic product but the action sequences get overshadowed by a clunky screenplay produced by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein. Their lack of focus results in multiple storylines that barely touch, a weak super villain and some sequences of extremely poor parental judgment.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” opens with Kong living a sequestered life on a small island. His only friend is Jai (Kaylee Hottle), a deaf 9-year-old girl who manages to explain the unexplainable plot to the giant ape. They must take King Kong off the island to help find a super power source that exists at the hollow center of the Earth. As soon as Kong goes on a sea cruise, Godzilla shows up for their first encounter of the bloody kind.
While this is happening, the ever-curious Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) convinces a nerdish friend and a conspiracy podcaster (Brian Tyree Henry) to break into a super-secret facility to uncover sinister actions that eventually get around to the Kong and Godzilla battle. Their entire storyline could have been dropped and there would have been no impact on the movie.
Meanwhile, Kong and the gang have made a trip to an underground world where a super energy source exists. The trip beautifully unfolds in a world where up and down are relative terms. It’s nice to look at but the lush cinematography ends up being more of a distraction from the main event.
Alexander Skarsgård and Rebecca Hall do their best to add a human element to all of this monstrous mayhem at the center of the Earth but they aren’t put in enough real-life situations to create a connection with the audience. They end up as set pieces for one of the storylines that just keep unraveling as the film moves along.
Director Adam Wingard (“Blair Witch”) bounces in and out of action sequences. The problem he faces is that the two previous films featured big scenes of mass destruction. His 21st Century take on a city being destroyed by battling monsters is fine but there are no big original moments. There are actually some scenes that look like an homage to “The Power Rangers.”
Overall, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is entertaining if you have not set your expectaion too high. It could have been better. It should have been better. But, that pesky convoluted story just keeps getting in the way of the action.
The one thing Warner Bros. has going for it is timing. “Godzilla vs. Kong” was moved to March 2021 because of the pandemic. Now that theaters are re-opening, this movie does serve as a harmless bit of action fun that will look better on a big screen.
If you are still worried about going to a movie theater, “Godzilla vs. Kong” will be on HBO Max in 4K UHD, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos on supported devices for 31 days from theatrical release.
Godzilla vs. Kong
2 1/2 stars
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir.
Director: Adam Wingard
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language