REVIEW: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is the mess you probably thought it was, with useless human characters, inconsistent special effects, shoddy editing, laughless humor, desperate attempts to be cool, and mostly underwhelming action. But there are moments, even whole segments, that suggest a better movie trapped in the Legendary Monsterverse’s checklist of stupid stuff nobody likes but they refuse to stop doing.

Now residing in the Hollow Earth, the world where the monsters come from, King Kong is lonely and searches for more apes to bond with. On Regular Earth, Godzilla continues to fight other monsters and destroy cities in the process (but only parts of them; he’s not a jerk). But when Monarch discovers a signal being sent from the Hollow Earth, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) enlists podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), surrogate daughter and monster whisperer Jia (Kaylee Hottle), and… dentist Trapper (Dan Stevens) to journey below the Earth’s surface and see what’s cooking, and why it’s making Godzilla feast on nuclear power like a starving man at a buffet.

Did you catch the part where Dan Stevens plays a dentist named Trapper? That’s the best indication I can give that the humans suck and not only add nothing to Godzilla x Kong but detract from it. King Kong returns to Earth because he needs dental work, and Ilene calls in Trapper to pull an infected tooth. That was the best the movie could do to bring King Kong and the Monarch characters together in the first act. And Trapper is just so zany, guys! He’s got the personality of an obnoxious hippie you’d avoid at a party, he listens to 80s music whenever he operates heavy machinery, he seems to think he’s funny, and he has a romantic history with Ilene that is mentioned in one scene and never brought up again, lest these feel like actual characters. He’s really not that different from whoever Alexander Skarsgård played in Godzilla vs. Kong, only he’s more annoying.

But the rest aren’t a whole lot better; they’re just a whole lot blander. Ilene is in Godzilla x Kong to recite exposition, which includes informing us of how much she loves her “daughter,” Jia. Jia is now a troubled teenager who’s having psychic visions of some ominous dark shapes. This could have been interesting, but everyone around her has suddenly become an idiot because nobody remembers that she has some sort of supernatural link to King Kong and the Hollow Earth. Bernie is still podcasting, but he’s also an expert seismologist or something (I don’t even think the movie knows) who helps Ilene – who works for a giant organization full of scientists whose sole job is to monitor the monsters – figure out what’s going on with Godzilla. And that’s it; they’re all there just to be there because we’ve been conditioned to think that these movies only work with a human element, even one so lifeless that the humans have less characterization than the monsters.

Godzilla x Kong

And that’s why I say that they detract from Godzilla x Kong. There are some compelling plot elements on the monster side of things, and I liked parts of the lore surrounding the Hollow Earth and the two lead monsters’ place in it. This is especially true of the villain, the blue-eyed ape from the trailers who is called the Scar King. He’s not a particularly great villain, and his goals are basic bad-guy stuff, but the story surrounding it is more involved than I expected, and he becomes a personal nemesis for both Godzilla and King Kong. The humans are what ruin this; they’re constantly brought in to either augment or explain the conflict when it would have been much more interesting just to allow it to reveal itself through the monsters and their actions. There is some good visual storytelling in the second act, mostly involving King Kong and the creatures he encounters, including the baby ape he meets, who has a better arc than any of the humans. But it’s never allowed to speak for itself because the humans have to justify their presence in the movie.

The hope in a movie like Godzilla x Kong is that the action will make up for the film’s deficiencies. That was what made Godzilla vs. Kong worth a watch (but just one). Unfortunately, this one isn’t nearly as fun in that department. There are monster fights peppered throughout the movie, but they’re short and never dazzle the way they should. For most of them, the coup de grâce happens off-screen, which was probably done to save money. (And since Godzilla x Kong will likely be profitable as a result, I guess they’re the ones laughing.) The later battles are better, and there are some neat action moments when Godzilla and King Kong face the Scar King and his minions. But even those aren’t as interesting or well-filmed as the ones in Godzilla vs. Kong, despite using some of the same action beats. That’s part of it; these ones aren’t as inventive. They follow a discernible pattern, and they start to lag after a while.

Godzilla x Kong

In fact, there’s a general drop-off in technical quality from the last Monsterverse film, which is a bit odd because Godzilla x Kong was directed by Adam Wingard, who also helmed Godzilla vs. Kong. The lack of imagination in the fights is one aspect, but there’s very little wonder or visual splendor this time despite scenes that call for it. It’s partly the humans and their lameness, but it’s also that these scenes are presented as by-the-numbers plot points rather than epic reveals that broaden this universe. The editing is also quite poor, with certain things happening on-screen after someone says they’ve already happened. At one point, Godzilla is in the Arctic; then, he’s suddenly in Egypt in the next scene, as if it’s across the street. I would say that Wingard’s heart wasn’t in this one, but he’s said he has plans for more Monsterverse movies, so… I don’t know what happened.

The special effects are sometimes excellent, sometimes terrible, and usually somewhere in between. The best parts are some of the still images of the monsters, where you get a sense of their scale and power as the detailed CGI brings them to life. But when they’re in motion, especially during the fights, the cracks begin to form, and they look faker than they had before. King Kong fares the best, probably because he doesn’t have the visual pizzazz of Godzilla or the Scar King, or some of the other beasts they encounter. But there are a few moments where the effects are awful and cartoony, like when King Kong is doused with the entrails of a creature he’s just killed in the opening sequence. You don’t believe it’s really happening for one second. However, I quite liked the score, which is appropriately rousing, let down by the lousy movie it complements. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is grating and nonsensical, with random 80s songs forced into scenes they don’t gel with at all. It’s a poorly mixed stew, like the rest of the film.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)

Plot - 5
Acting - 3
Directing/Editing - 4
Music/Sound - 7
Special Effects - 6



Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is the underwhelming, schlocky trash you probably thought it was, with a mixed bag of special effects, surprisingly subpar filmmaking from Adam Wingard, and boring human characters, although there are hints of a better movie popping up here and there.

Comments (2)

April 5, 2024 at 6:16 pm

Yeah, I found it underwhelming. I wanted dumb fun, but instead I got more dumb and not that much fun. It has its moments though.

    April 5, 2024 at 9:36 pm

    That’s a good way of putting it. I at least had a good time in the moment with the last one, but this one was a drag.

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