The ‘Deadpool 2’ and ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ star keeps landing bigger projects, and we’re hoping it’s worth his time.
Big opportunities abound for Julian Dennison, who rose to fame in Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople before setting the world alight – literally – in a pivotal role in the sequel to Fox’s R-rated superhero romp Deadpool. The young New Zealander now finds his next project in something even more spectacular. Dennison has been tapped for Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong, the fourth installment in Legendary’s MonsterVerse which began with their rebooted Godzilla and King Kong movies.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dennison is joining Godzilla vs. Kong along with Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Van Marten (Avengers: Infinity War). That Hashtag Show further notes that Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown may reappear as their characters from the upcoming Michael Dougherty Godzilla sequel, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The latter outlet has also claimed that Frances McDormand has even been offered a part, although no other confirmation of this has surfaced.
For now, all we know for certain is Dennison will be involved in Godzilla vs. Kong. Anybody who has seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople would have fallen in love with Ricky Baker; you’ve got to hand it to such a talented actor who managed to hold his own against a formidably grumpy Sam Neill. Dennison stole the show in Wilderpeople several times, despite the fact that the film features a plethora of wonderfully weird side characters besides Neill’s. The young New Zealander holds onto the movie’s heart with a vice.
Something about Taika Waititi’s offbeat adventure story allows Dennison to show off his uncanny comedic timing while it monopolizes all empathy for him simultaneously. Unsurprisingly, he was then cast in Deadpool 2, which has grossed close to $600 million worldwide so far. As the fireball-brandishing Russell Collins, Dennison is a crux of Wade Wilson’s (Ryan Reynolds) emotional turmoil, turning in a more serious performance than what was merely hinted at in Wilderpeople. Even amidst Deadpool 2’s evident tonal discrepancies – particularly the fact that it sports a million punchlines and seesawing emotional beats – Russell proves to be vital in bringing out latent goodness in the Merc with a Mouth.
As the world awaits the release of King of the Monsters and without any character or plot details related to Godzilla vs. Kong in THR’s report, it’s impossible to ascertain what Dennison’s role will be in the film. Arguably though, the successes of both preceding Godzilla or Kong films give us a little hope; they each sit pretty at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, for instance, and prove to be a consistent and reliably good franchise. Gareth Edwards made Godzilla a box office success in 2014, with the film taking in $529.1 million against its $160 million budget. Jordan Vogt-Roberts replicated that with Kong: Skull Island, which made $566.7 million against $185 million.
But beyond the dollars, these films are vastly different, almost artsy takes on monster movies. Whether it’s the buoyancy of Vogt-Roberts’ cartoonishly exaggerated Kong or the languid drama of Edwards’ Godzilla, these aren’t your typical blockbusters.
At the time, Edwards was known for his exceptional low-budget monster movie Monsters. Vogt-Roberts’ debut, The Kings of Summer, made for an off-kilter but character-driven film that put him on our radar. Legendary hasn’t stopped there in searching for quality filmmakers to build up the MonsterVerse either. Of the series’ upcoming directors, Dougherty is known for Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus, while Wingard made You’re Next and The Guest. These aren’t just a series of forgettable names churning out mindless movies. They have the potential to take the material much further.
However, an argument could be made that many of the fantastic established actors who’ve become a part of the MonsterVerse don’t get their due in these flicks. I was particularly excited for Elizabeth Olsen to be in Godzilla only for her to be relegated to a wifely figure. Meanwhile, Kong: Skull Island does include characters with potential, but huge names like Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson had to play woefully underwritten characters. It’s a blessing that they are great actors who manage to bring warmth and likability to these roles regardless.
At least — to Edwards’ and Vogt-Roberts’ credit — both Godzilla and Kong have managed to create narrative impetuses for both human and monster overall. Their movies certainly aren’t hollow in the slightest; the audience is simply sympathizing with the creatures a little more. Godzilla and Kong even happen to weigh the odds in nature’s balancing act too, oscillating between filling the roles of terror and savior of humanity depending on who serves a more immediate threat. Sometimes – as Godzilla and Kong only slightly perpetuate – us humans manage to make a case for our survival in concepts of family; we want to protect what’s ours.
But where does that leave star-quality talents like Dennison? Hopefully in a movie that still works on a level of pure enjoyment. In fact, Deadpool 2 surprised audiences with its emotional depth regardless of a messier, less focused tone, and that was due to Dennison’s prowess at emotionality. In which case, even if we’re not sure where exactly they’ll fit, this casting is still promising. Ricky Baker could still be as good as gold.