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April 11, 2021

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Kong, Godzilla come out of hibernation

There is King Kong, colossus of the big screen, slowing waking on a mountainside. He rouses slowly in the morning sun from slumber before showering in a nearby waterfall. It’s, maybe, a little bit the same for the kind of movies King Kong symbolizes and still holds some dominion over: big spectacles of mass destruction made to be seen on equally towering screens. That kind of movie-going has been in hibernation for much of the past pandemic year. “Godzilla vs Kong,” the only creature feature to dare wide release in some time, is a rock ‘em-sock ‘em monster-movie revival with all the explosions, inane plot twists and skyscraper smashing to satisfy most lovers of gigantic amphibians.

“Godzilla vs Kong,” directed by Adam Wingard, follows in the very big but quickly forgotten footsteps of the 2014 reboot “Godzilla,” 2017’s Vietnam-set “Apocalypse Now”-tinged sequel “Kong: Skull Island” and 2019’s “Godzilla: King of Monsters.” But, of course, the lineage is much longer than that. Godzilla and Kong first squared off in 1962’s “King Kong vs Godzilla” (Kong got first billing back then), the Toho Studios film that mashed together monsters both East and West. (Before the Japanese studio got involved, the original template had Kong meeting Frankenstein.)

This time, the ultra-heavyweight prize fight between the Coke and Pepsi of the MonsterVerse doesn’t break any new ground. That might be its salvation. Wingard (“You’re Next,” “The Guest”) gives us some solid supporting characters (Brian Tyree Henry as a podcasting conspiracy theorist on the right track is the best of the humans) and some slick sound design. But mostly “Godzilla vs Kong” supplies appropriately silly sci-fi escapades and a few good rounds of monster mayhem, including, in their first meeting, a ballet of battleships on the open ocean.

With a debt to Jules Verne, “Godzilla vs Kong” makes its way, via Antarctica, to the center of the Earth. It covers a lot of mileage only to ultimately fall back where so many action blockbusters do: at the hands of a melomaniac tech CEO.

Shot with a lustrous glow by Ben Seresin, the movie is soaked in the glossy sheen of CGI. King Kong, born in stop-motion, and Godzilla, once a guy in a suit, have swelled so much in design and texture that they now appear like veteran movie stars who have moved on from their B-movie origins. By the end, they appear exhausted, and who can blame them? They’re likely tired from emerging again and again. Next time, someone should let Kong hit the snooze.


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