Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Review

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Summary

  • Kong gets more screen time and sympathy than Godzilla, who is underutilized in the lackluster plot.
  • The film’s CGI lacks perspective, making the Titans less majestic and imposing in the Hollow Earth settings.
  • Unlike its predecessor, Godzilla Minus One, this film fails to capture the dramatic depth and impact of monster attacks.



Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire dulls the senses in a relentless and meandering CGI onslaught that often feels like a role-playing video game. The fifth chapter in Toho’s MonsterVerse eschews any notion of visual realism for creature carnage wrapped around a flimsy plot. The popcorn cinema spectacle may suffice for those willing to check their brain at the theater door for epic computer destruction and a further anthropomorphized Kong. The behemoth ape gets an IQ infusion to battle a nasty new threat and his simian minions.

The film picks up after the events of Godzilla vs. Kong with both Titans abiding by a truce. Kong roams the subterranean Hollow Earth while Godzilla keeps the surface world in monster check. Monarch, the organization tasked with monitoring the Titans, has established global outposts to study the gargantuan beasts and serves as an early warning system for impending disasters. But all is not well for Kong, who’s suffering from a cracked fang and loneliness. The destruction of Skull Island and the Iwi tribe has left him melancholic.


A strange electromagnetic signal emanating from Hollow Earth unnerves Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall). It cripples Monarch’s equipment and riles up Godzilla from his slumber in Rome’s Colosseum. Something has stirred the beast into preparing for war. The mysterious wave also affects Jia (Kaylee Hottle), Ilene’s adopted Iwi daughter, on a subconscious level. She begins to have alarming visions that freak out her teachers and fellow students.


The Scar King

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

1.5/5

Release Date
March 29, 2024

Studio
Legendary Entertainment, Screen Queensland, Warner Bros.

Pros

  • King Kong is given great time to shine, and the study of its life is sympathetic and honest.
Cons

  • The CGI is poorly designed and lacks perspective and scope.
  • The dialogue and attempts at humor are embarrassing.
  • Godzilla is overlooked and totally wasted.


Ilene seeks the counsel of Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), who’s become a fringe podcaster of Titan conspiracies. No one believes he’s a hero because there’s no proof of his actions. Bernie has a theory after seeing Jia’s disturbing drawings. He’ll help Ilene but wants to join the investigative mission to Hollow Earth. Bernie will document the expedition and show his doubters the truth. Ilene reluctantly takes Jia, Bernie, and Trapper (Dan Stevens), her ex-boyfriend and the ’70s rock-blaring “Ace Ventura” of monsters, to Hollow Earth on a dangerous hunt for the signal’s source. What they find radically changes their understanding of the Titans and unleashes a vicious enemy, the ruthless Scar King.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire spends the majority of its runtime exploring Hollow Earth in two subplots. There’s a day in the life of Kong perspective and the Monarch team bumbling about in the ancient jungle like hapless human snacks. Kong’s routine holds your interest because we see the steps he’s taken to survive. An ape’s got to eat, defend himself, and find a comfortable shelter to rest his hairy head. Primates are social animals that need community. You genuinely feel sympathetic to his desolate existence, which changes with the introduction of Scar’s oppressed clan. The Monarch scientists invoke the opposite reaction. Their awful dialogue and silly interactions, meant to be humorous, are mind-numbing.


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Godzilla preps for battle like a Titan boxer working out at a nuclear gym. It doesn’t get nearly the narrative treatment afforded to Kong. This brainless action is a disservice to such a storied character. The filmmakers needed Godzilla to be more involved in the story than just looming in the background for an obvious climax. It disappears for a significant part of the second act, while other less engaging monsters and the dull human ensemble take center stage.

Godzilla Minus All the Good Stuff


It’s difficult not to compare Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire to the vastly superior Godzilla Minus One. That film is a Kaiju masterpiece with searing dramatic elements that won the visual effects Oscar in a stunning upset. It took the source material seriously and made a thoughtful effort to show the devastating true impact of a monster attack, and makes this new film look ridiculous in comparison. Hall, Henry, and Stevens are legitimate actors. They have the ability to convey earnest themes. The script just didn’t give them meaty material to chew on. An opportunity was lost to make Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire​​​​​​​ more incisive.

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Godzilla Minus One tackled Japan’s heinous involvement in World War II and its soul-searching aftermath in the rubble. Some will say this is an unfair comparison because both films have different agendas. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire isn’t trying to be weighty or critical. Its goal is fun escapism for mass cinematic consumption. That’s clearly understood, but the film does attempt moments of gravitas that land with an unrealistic thud. Imagine if Godzilla Minus One director Takashi Yamazaki helmed Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire​​​​​​​. There’s a sneaking suspicion he would have ticked all the blockbuster boxes while delivering a more visceral experience.


Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire​ has a surprising and unexpected flaw regarding scope. The Titans aren’t majestic or imposing in the Hollow Earth settings. You can’t judge their size because everything around them is on a similar scale. It’s only when they return to human settings does the size factor come back into play. Then the CGI becomes even more egregious because motion-capture monsters knocking down digital buildings look totally fake. The film is a step backwards for the franchise.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is a production of Legendary Pictures. It will be released theatrically on March 29th from Warner Bros. You can watch the trailer below:

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