Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Review – Bigger And Better
6 mins read

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Review – Bigger And Better

In some ways, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is just another mega-budget Hollywood CGI spectacle, something we’ve seen a ton of examples of every year for the past two decades and change. But, like the previous MonsterVerse movies, Godzilla x Kong has its own distinct vibe and aesthetic that sets it apart from all those generic blockbusters that the studios and streamers keep churning out. Sure, there’s no meaningful substance to be found on this titanic adventure, but you don’t really need it when your movie is otherwise this fun and well put together.

Some time has passed since Godzilla and King Kong devastated Hong Kong when they fought both each other and Mecha-Godzilla in the last movie, and everybody’s trying their best to get used to living with these massive beings who keep accidentally slaughtering huge amounts of people while they go about their business–at the beginning of the movie, Godzilla has to fight yet another titan in Rome, before curling up in a ball in the Colosseum and taking a nap.

Kong, by contrast, has been spending his time beneath the ground in the world of Hollow Earth, where Monarch has set up a bunch of bases to keep track of his movements and to study the wild ecosystem down there. New paths keep opening up for Kong to explore, until he eventually encounters a group of hostile giant apes who have enslaved all the other Hollow Earth apes. This group is led by a particularly mean-looking ape, King Skar–he wants to dominate the surface. But Kong is able to recruit a kid giant ape from among them to serve as a guide and help fight.

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On the human side of things, we’re mostly concerned with one group of people–Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry and the young deaf actress Kaylee Hottle returning from the last movie, along with newcomer Dan Stevens, who’s a delightful addition. They spend the movie exploring Hollow Earth trying to figure out what Kong is up to and how to help him, and in the process, they run into more of the Iwi folks who used to live on Skull Island. It’s a good core group–but the real standout may be Hottle. She’s got the chops and the screen presence to hold her own against the seasoned adult actors, delivering a surprisingly memorable human performance among all the CGI spectacle.

Just as it was last time with Godzilla vs. Kong, director Adam Wingard has delivered a rather lore-heavy movie with a running time under two hours, which is pretty unusual in the current landscape of blockbusters that frequently last more than 150 minutes, like the recent Dune Part Two. Wingard seems to have a knack for streamlining his movies down to their essential story beats while still keeping them coherent.

That’s a really good thing for Godzilla X Kong, which never gets bogged down by its considerable amount of plot. Instead, it means more time watching Godzilla and Kong fight a bunch of new bad guys. But despite the order of their names in the title, this is primarily a King Kong flick. Godzilla gets to do plenty of fighting, but he spends the bulk of the movie on the surface leveling up his mouth laser–it’s why his back spikes are pink–in anticipation of the Skar King’s arrival.

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Kong’s journey through Hollow Earth, meanwhile, is a lot of fun and rarely involves human characters–we’re really getting Kong’s POV during these lengthy and dialogue-free portions of the movie. But his story is a familiar one–a guy discovers his kin have been enslaved or captured, and he has to defeat the bad guy to free them–so it’s easy to follow and very entertaining. And it also means lots of giant-ape-on-giant-ape action, and these fights are awesome. But there’s a reason Kong needs Godzilla’s help–Kong takes quite a beating from these new baddies and clearly won’t be able to defeat them on his own.

While the first two acts see battles coming at a fast and furious clip, the final act of Godzilla x Kong takes things to a new level with several major fights and no breaks in between them, culminating in an appropriately destructive showdown in Rio de Janeiro. And while Wingard also directed the last movie, the final battle this time out has a very different look and feel–it’s remarkable that these fights can still feel so fresh after we’ve watched so many of them, but that’s a credit to Wingard and his team.

Is Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire some kind of Great Work of Cinema in the same way folks talk about last year’s Godzilla Minus One? No, it’s not ambitious in that way. Godzilla x Kong is instead just a sleek and very well made action movie with a coherent story that wraps itself up well before you’ll get the chance to be tired of it, and yet never feels like it had half its plot removed the way most Marvel movies do in recent years.

Godzilla X Kong is fun, coherent, and less than two hours long–that’s a beautiful and rare thing for a big studio movie these days. Let’s cherish it.

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