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Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Film Review

King Kong holds an axe in front of some mountains in the film “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE"

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire might be fun for fans of the monster franchise, but will leave everyone else feeling empty and longing for something more human.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire spends much of its runtime on Hollow Earth, which is fitting, since the latest installment in the MonsterVerse rings aggressively hollow. The new film featuring our two favorite monsters has plenty of worldbuilding, expanded mythology, and CGI battles – and is perhaps just goofy enough to warrant its existence – but it buckles under its own weight due to a lackluster story and an overall feeling of pointlessness.

A direct sequel to 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong and the fifth film in the MonsterVerse franchise, Godzilla x Kong shows the titular titans separated. Godzilla dwells on the surface, hanging out in the Roman Colosseum and occasionally fighting other titans loose on earth. Kong, meanwhile, is living in the recently discovered Hollow Earth, an entire ecosystem under the earth and filled with new and fascinating creatures. When a strange energy reading is discovered on Hollow Earth, and Iwi native Jia (Kaylee Hottle) begins experiencing visions, she and her mother figure Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall, of Passing) assemble a team to explore the phenomenon, one that will eventually bring the giant lizard and giant gorilla together to stop an even greater threat.

The plot grows increasingly jumbled from there, and pieces of the story seem stitched together for the sole purpose of introducing new monsters. Some of these new monsters are fun enough, especially the smaller ape-like creature who helps Kong in this new adventure. It’s easy to tell that director Adam Wingard (returning from Godzilla vs. Kong) leaned further into the goofy tendencies of the franchise; everything is bigger, louder, and monster-er.

This excessiveness bleeds into some of the human characters; Brian Tyree Henry (Causeway) as conspiracy theorist/podcaster Bernie Hayes continues to be the funniest addition to these movies, while newcomer Dan Stevens (Cuckoo) adds another extra layer of comedic flare. The fact that this film goes all in on the craziness will make many fans happy. Others, however, will grow increasingly frustrated at the overabundant worldbuilding and the undercooked dramatic moments between the main characters. The mother-daughter dynamic between Hall’s and Hottle’s characters could have been interesting, as well as Jia’s relationship to the Iwi tribe that is discovered on Hollow Earth, but neither plotline is given a chance to breathe because the filmmakers simply wanted to get to the next CGI monster brawl. As a result, the entire movie feels empty, and theatergoers may be left wondering what the point is.

DAN STEVENS as Trapper, REBECCA HALL as Dr. Ilene Andrews and KAYLEE HOTTLE as Jia walk in a corridor in “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE”
(L-r) DAN STEVENS as Trapper, REBECCA HALL as Dr. Ilene Andrews and KAYLEE HOTTLE as Jia in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (© 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

It’s easy to compare this film, and the MonsterVerse in general, to other shared cinematic universes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe remains the obvious example. But what made the earlier MCU films work is their dedication to building up the characters, and then paying off that development with the big action sequences. Godzilla x Kong takes the opposite approach, trying to build some type of character arc around the chaotic battles. The result is admittingly fun fight scenes amongst the monsters, but fights that feel ultimately ineffectual because there are no stakes tied to them.

The hollowness of this film is exceptionally frustrating because these two monumental monsters originally graced the silver screen with substantial meaning and symbolism. Both original films (1933’s King Kong and 1954’s Godzilla) and a smattering of other films in their respective franchises had something of significance to say to their audiences. The original King Kong tackles colonialism and cultural differences. Godzilla sees a country cathartically dealing with a national tragedy. But any sense of subtext or deeper meanings is stripped away from Godzilla x Kong, which becomes the latest blockbuster to fall for the lie that audiences crave only mindless, empty spectacle. It’s “fun” and “goofy,” and audiences might retain one or two specific moments, but its cultural status will not extend beyond that.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is out now globally in theaters. Read our reviews of Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and our list of all Monsterverse movies ranked from worst to best!

All Monsterverse movies ranked from worst to best – Loud And Clear
Revisit our favorite god-like creatures with all the Monsterverse movies ranked from worst to best, including Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.
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