Mischief making, franchise geeking: Julian Dennison, Brian Tyree Henry talk ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’

Photo of "Godzilla vs Kong" Movie
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Whether you’re streaming Adam Wingard’s “Godzilla vs. Kong” on March 31st on HBO or taking yourself out to the theaters for the first time since the pandemic started to show it, one thing’s for certain: this showdown of cinematic legends will knock any preconceptions of superiority between the two out of the park. In a roundtable interview with The Daily Californian, Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison gave their perspectives on the long-awaited clash between mythic adversaries Godzilla and King Kong:

“These monsters are misunderstood … They got the label of being monsters when actually they’re kings, they’re titans,” commented Henry, who plays conspiracy-theorist podcaster and plot catalyst Bernie Hayes. “What I love about what (Wingard) did with this movie is he actually made them both incredibly complex, like you actually kind of care about both of them … while also actually caring about the humans.”

While the borderline between monstrosity and humanity is more treaded than ever before in this latest addition to the MonsterVerse franchise, “Godzilla vs. Kong” still promises all the usual elements of an eco-horror blockbuster, including visually-stimulating settings and king-to-king confrontations with use of breathtaking CGI.

“The sets were huge. Sometimes you had to get a chiropractor because you’re looking up so much,” joked Dennison, who plays the nerdy best friend Josh Valentine to Millie Bobby Brown’s character Madison Russell. “There’d be giant screens and laser pointers, and you would kind of lose it.”

Although the extent of CGI might’ve challenged the two actors during the film process, cast and crew assured that filming remained a supportive and engaging experience.

“Julian … is just a master, man,” Henry confirmed about Dennison’s acting and improvisational abilities. “We got to play … Just come up with all kinds of schemes. I called us the Goonies cause we’re going on this adventure together, you know, and as their supposed-to-be-fearless leader who has the answers (and is) trying to expose the truth, I really cared about their protection and I cared about making it to the very end with them.”

Not only was Henry ecstatic about the character dynamics, but also, the entirety of the movie’s premise was one that he had been ready to take part in since childhood.

“I’m a huge geek from this universe, honestly,” Henry said. “I remember when I was asked to play this part ,I was like wait, I get to be the crackpot scientist? They’ve never hired a black guy to be the crackpot scientist. I know stuff? Okay great!”

Henry plays an ex-employee of Apex Cybernetics, a tech company whose efforts to harness a mysterious underground energy source to defend against Godzilla’s havoc clash with those of Monarch, the fictional government’s zoological agency seen in recent films “Kong: Skull Island” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”

“When my character is gonna be named Bernie, I was like, ‘Well, I gotta represent really hard then,’” Tyler stated on his acting strategy. “Even in these worlds it’s still kind of political. (MonsterVerse films) use these platforms sometimes to talk about the things that are going on in our world, like climate change.”

Not only will “Godzilla vs. Kong” dip its toes into relevant political commentary, but also it will submerge the viewer into the politics of its own famed universe, intertwining the histories of the two ecological champions and clutching the viewer by the heart in the meanwhile.

“In most movies like this, humans are just a body count,” said Henry. “But I think with this one they made it so that the humans who are championing for both of these teams, you care about them too.”

Being that “Godzilla vs. Kong” prioritizes interpersonal relationships just as much as spectacle, it is only fitting that theaters are reopening in time for this movie, and allowing its viewers to do the same with each other.

“I think right now this is what we need, we need to be able to get together … I miss eating popcorn and having a soda and watching a giant movie with people I don’t know,” Dennison reminisced. “It’s so cool that people are able to go back and watch a big blockbuster movie and really enjoy themselves.”

But the “Godzilla vs. Kong” experience doesn’t have to be undergone at a theater for it to be impactful, Tyler assured. Those who continue to stay at home can stream the film on HBO Max and create their own cinematic event.

“I was really shocked about how much fun you could have watching it on your small screen; it still resonates, it’s still fun,” Henry commented. “And just turn your speakers up, I don’t care how many noise complaints you get. Like, let your windows shake. It’s one of those.”

Godzilla vs. Kong is now streaming on HBO Max.

Contact Nurcan Sumbul at [email protected].