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Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)

Compared to other recent, more inspired offshoots of the Monsterverse, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire comes across as a big pile of Titan-dung.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Science Fiction

Director: Adam Wingard

Actors: Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle

Year: 2024

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: USA

Part of the fun of the latest reboots of Godzilla and friends (starting with Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film) has been the surprising earnestness despite the outrageous premise: There have always been giant beasties known as Titans lurking on (or inside) our planet, but it’s humans’ own darn fault that they are now wreaking havoc due to nuclear testing in the 1950s. When beloved cities like San Francisco and Honolulu got destroyed by a certain angry, giant lizard, real human repercussions were acknowledged, and fear of attacks became a part of daily life.

But the films have been getting progressively dumber as they’ve gone on, maybe mirroring the original series’ de-evolution into silly popcorn flicks. This latest installment seems more like a giant pile of Titan-dung, especially when compared to the other recent, inspired offshoots of Godzilla mythology: The surprisingly great Apple+ prequel series Monarch, and the Japanese Oscar-winning (!!!) Toho reboot Godzilla Minus One.

In the beginning of this chapter, Godzilla is having a smackdown with the Titan Scylla, laying waste to Rome before hunkering down to take a long nap in the Colosseum. Meanwhile, Kong is in Hollow Earth fighting his own beastie battles. But he’s lonely, still feeling like he is the only of his kind… That is, until he comes upon a cute little mini-me orange ape with big, wet eyes apparently named Suko. Suko is a little scheming rascal, but under Kong’s anthropomorphized insistence, takes Kong to a previously unknown kingdom of other giant apes ruled by a literal and figurative monster known as Skar King. Skar King, who lords over a dominion of slave-like apes, is not happy to meet Kong.

In the human world, the lone human survivor of Kong’s island, the Iwi girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), has felt a disturbance in the force… a disturbance so strong that it has shown up as spikes in Monarch’s fancy global-magnetic (or something) readings. This disturbance has caused Godzilla to wake up and leave his Colosseum nest to go in search of more nuclear power to “charge up” in prep for a big battle. A gaggle of humans, including Jia’s adoptive mom, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), the veterinarian-to-the-giants Trapper (Dan Stevens), and conspiracy podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), easily hop a Monarch hovercraft-thing (as though there is no government security or overreach to question them) down to Hollow Earth to see what’s going on.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is unfortunately short on Godzilla (he is, after all, snoozing and charging for much of the film), leaving the bulk of the plot focused on Kong’s discovery of and clash with Skar King and his pack of goons. It all ends up feeling more like Kong stumbling into Planet of the Apes, with his own Lil’ Buddy sidekick and a bunch of humans there to instantly help him out with, say, a giant-ape-sized bionic arm that they happen to have lying around in the Hollow Earth jungle. It’s also revealed that the Iwi people, thought to be extinct, actually have thrived in Hollow Earth, so young Jia is perhaps finding her people, just like her friend-in-loneliness Kong.

Sure it’s fun seeing Godzilla, Kong, and various Titans lay waste, as usual, to major human landmarks (branching out a bit to include the Egyptian pyramids, the Rock of Gibraltar, and Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janiero). But this time they don’t even bother mentioning the human carnage in the wake of these battles. The planet is simply the Titans’ playground. There is no reason to get attached to any humans because there is no character development (Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyrese Henry are there seemingly to just provide exposition, while Dan Stevens gets to play comic relief). The story ignores the most basic rules of Hollow Earth carefully established by Monarch, and even steals a trick from Marvel by dropping in some random 80s songs out of nowhere to supposedly kick things up a notch.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire was not only disappointing, it was irritating. Just when the Godzilla series seemed to be getting it’s Toho-mojo back, we get this dumb chapter that is more pleased with its over-the-top CGI world-building than actually creating anything interesting or cohesive that manages to build on or add to the mythology. At least there is a brief appearance by the lovely Mothra to remind us that this world should be as wonderous as it is terrifying. The WB Monsterverse really needs to take a cue from the superior stories of Monarch and Godzilla Minus One: This reboot needs a reboot.

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