Godzilla x Kong is a pulpy and roaring spectacle
5 mins read

Godzilla x Kong is a pulpy and roaring spectacle

There are no spoilers ahead for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, beyond what’s been revealed in marketing materials.

Adam Wingard’s second MonsterVerse movie, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, might feel looser than 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, but it finally lets its gargantuan protagonists lead the story.

It’s loud. It’s silly. It’s a Showa-era kaiju movie, but made on a beefy Hollywood budget, through and through. We’ve just enjoyed the finest dramatic Godzilla movie since 1954 in Toho’s Godzilla Minus One, so it only makes sense that Legendary Pictures and the bold filmmakers behind the MonsterVerse keep rowing in the opposite direction after having tackled disaster-movie-like Godzilla too in the past.

Godzilla x Kong is much more of a Kong-centric movie though. The previous installment already acknowledged that the giant ape was the most human-like kaiju around, and logically gave him a bigger narrative weight to carry to the center of the Earth and then back to the surface. However, humans still kickstarted both the Kong and Godzilla subplots, which eventually came together to explode in the evil capitalists’ faces.

This time around, we spend a lot more time with the kaijus on their own, especially with Kong and Suko (AKA Baby Kong according to the Internet). In fact, the giant monsters chart their own journeys, and they don’t even need exposition-heavy dialogues – unlike the humans – to do so. It’s genuinely refreshing and the kind of stuff which makes you realize how far the MonsterVerse and certain big-screen subgenres have come. Mankind’s representation, meanwhile, is reduced to four main characters with very limited tasks to perform, beyond reacting to whatever the giants are doing and verbalizing stuff we’re clearly seeing.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire - Kong tries to reason with Godzilla
Image credit: WB Pictures/Legendary Pictures

The script’s nimbleness, despite a frontloaded introduction to what everyone’s been up to, is the right call when it comes to the humans. Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle’s relationship as Ilene Andrews and Jia continues to inject sincere emotion into the mix. Brian Tyree Henry is just ad-libbing and having fun in a less annoying way than last time. Dan Stevens truly rocks and steals several scenes while looking like the coolest dude on the face of planet Earth. The latter’s juiced-up and extremely charming role doesn’t come as a surprise, since Godzilla x Kong marks his reunion with director Adam Wingard and co-writer Simon Barrett, both of whom unsuspectingly launched him to stardom with 2014’s The Guest (a badass little movie you should watch ASAP if you haven’t already).

For the most part, Godzilla x Kong is shamelessly built like a Saturday morning cartoon that runs just under two hours. This may remind you of the bland Dwayne Johnson-led Rampage adaptation, but it lands much closer to Guillermo del Toro‘s Pacific Rim in spirit and colorfulness. This obvious comparison is also true when it comes to the overall tone and explicit influences – Godzilla and Kong’s reunion is very much a long-running anime’s season finale in which enemies-turned-reluctant-allies have to face a much bigger threat directly connected to their shared past. It’s a dynamic that, pardon my French, whips ass in ways that the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other huge franchises have been struggling to do recently.

Godzilla x Kong - Skar King
Image credit: WB Pictures/Legendary Pictures

Visually, Wingard goes even wilder this time around, taking advantage of the Hollow Earth concept (and some surprising surface-world locations) to deliver metal album cover-worthy vistas and clashes of monsters, which take us to the era of gorgeous Technicolor and exude the same energy that James Wan applied to his unabashedly comic book-y Aquaman movies. It all fits the agile and fun-above-everything-else tone the movie was going for, and makes a trip to the nearest IMAX screen (if your city/town has those) well worth it.

While I, and many other MonsterVerse fans, might still think that a bit of ground-level drama and chaos would go a long way towards making all the mayhem feel more tangible, I can’t help but marvel at this almost pitch-perfect distillation of Godzilla’s zanier and more fantastical adventures and the evolution of this iteration of Kong as an ’80s action hero on an Arthurian journey (yes, really). If you don’t doze off during the earlier exposition-heavy beats after the strong intro, this ride is a kaiju-led delight filled with the right pulp sensibility.

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