Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024, dir. Adam Wingard)

by | Mar 28, 2024

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 115 mins

UK Distributor: Warner Bros

UK Release Date: 29 March 2024

WHO’S IN GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE?

Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, Fala Chen, Rachel House

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Adam Wingard (director), Simon Barrett, Terry Rossio and Jeremy Slater (writers), Alex Garcia, Jon Jashini, Eric McLeod, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers and Thomas Tull (producers), Antonio Di Iorio and Junkie XL (composers), Ben Seresin (cinematographer), Josh Schaeffer (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Godzilla and Kong team up to take on a threat to their world…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE?

Ever since it began in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, it’s been made exceptionally clear that the MonsterVerse is in no way canonically linked to the original Toho franchise. This has given all the films that followed freer rein to form their own identity, often going for the kind of big, bombastic, action-packed blockbusters that Western audiences tend to enjoy, compared to the much more soulful and allegorical entries in the separate Japanese versions.

The best part is, there appears to be no sense of competition between them. A film as uniformly excellent and complex as Toho’s Godzilla Minus One can exist at the same time as a MonsterVerse movie like Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, a film where a giant ape with a mechanical fist rides an equally giant lizard with a neon-pink spine into battle, and both can be enjoyed almost as equally by audiences. That’s very much the case with this new film, which for as silly and nonsensical as it can get, is undeniably fun popcorn entertainment that constantly rewards its audience without asking for too much in return.

Set some time after the events of Godzilla vs. Kong, the film partially takes place on Hollow Earth, the mystical and physics-defying realm underneath the human world where the giant ape Kong leads a carefree, but lonely, life. Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, Godzilla is doing what he does best: fighting other giant monsters, destroying countless buildings and landmarks, and then nesting within Rome’s Colosseum. Soon, however, a mysterious force calls out to both Titans, which also draws the curiosity of human scientist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), who gathers a small crew – including conspiracy theory podcaster Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), laid-back Titan veterinarian Trapper (Dan Stevens), and Andrews’ adoptive daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who represents the last of the native tribe from Kong’s Skull Island – on an expedition into Hollow Earth and beyond. There, Kong and the humans discover a terrifying new threat known as the Scar King, a fellow ape-like creature who is determined to conquer both Earthly realms, and now it’s up to both Kong and Godzilla to team up and take on their new shared enemy.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about the MonsterVerse franchise thus far is how it treats these giant monsters like they’re 80s-era action movie stars, who will tear into just about anything and anyone while still having a formidable screen presence (despite, in the monsters’ case, never even talking). That is truer than ever in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, with Kong for example having a gruff and authoritative personality that you could envision someone like Sylvester Stallone embodying. The ape even has his own little (to him, anyway) sidekick this time around, in the form of a wide-eyed orange-coated “Mini-Kong” that he forms a bond with throughout the film, which in traditional action movie terms gives the big hulking hero a touch of humanity. All the while, you do enjoy watching Kong as he embarks on this adventure, as he is a likeable presence that you’re comfortable rooting for, not to mention that the effects used to create him (and just about everything in general) are quite good here, so he’s always visually interesting to look at.

It is definitely much more of a Kong movie than it is a Godzilla movie – the two of them don’t even cross paths until much later on in the movie – with the giant lizard getting not nearly as formidable an arc, which may be a bit disappointing for Godzilla fans, especially since he technically gets higher billing in the title than Kong, who is by far the larger focus of the two. However, when Godzilla does makes his presence known, it’s certainly felt in the precious few scenes where he gets some awesome moments to shine. This includes his acquiring of the aforementioned neon-pink spine about halfway through, which leads me to dub him “Barbenheimer Godzilla” in response, because, well, can you think of another name that goes better with his new look than that? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

And of course, whenever the two Titans do share the screen together, it’s no less than utterly delightful, like whenever Stallone would team up with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger (Barbenheimer Godzilla, naturally, being the Schwarzenegger to Kong’s Stallone) to take on an equally muscular villain that someone such as Dolph Lundgren or Jean-Claude Van Damme would play. The monster action as a whole is ludicrously entertaining, with bodies being ripped apart by Kong as their green blood soaks the ape’s fur, Barbenheimer Godzilla whacking a villainous creature across a city with its tail, and there’s even a surprise appearance by a fellow iconic monster who was previously thought to be long gone, but will no doubt delight its own set of fans with its return here. This really is the monster movie equivalent of a WWE championship expo, with applause-worthy fighting moves designed to excite the crowd to no end, and props to director Adam Wingard (returning after making Godzilla vs. Kong) for recognising Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire for the kind of crowd-pleasing extravaganza that it is.

It’s almost pointless to get into any criticisms about the film because they’re either obvious (i.e. the plot makes no sense, the few human characters aren’t fully developed as people etc) or ones that you just don’t care about. It’s a film that knows it is big, loud and dumb right from the very beginning, with rock anthem needle-drops accompanying suit-up montages for new mechanical gear for the likes of Kong to use, and Dan Stevens waltzing through the whole film with a Hawaiian shirt and the combined personality of The Dude and Ace Ventura (the actor is having a blast in the role, by the way). Sure, you can lay into everything that doesn’t add up about the film, of which there is certainly plenty, but when you’re having this much fun watching two of cinema’s most famous monsters tear into each other, what use is there in complaining about it?

It goes without saying, but Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is absolutely no Godzilla Minus One, though if you’re going in expecting something of that quality in a film with Barbenheimer Godzilla, then frankly you only have yourself to blame.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is a delightfully dumb piece of monster movie entertainment, with crowd-pleasing action akin to WWE championships fitting neatly alongside the 80s action movie star personas of its two titular Titans, who make it far more enjoyable than it has any right to be.

Four of of five stars

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