‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ review: The Titans deliver, the film… not so much

A scene from ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Under the direction of Adam Wingard, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (GxK) appears to be a straightforward pursuit of profits for the production house. Undoubtedly, there’s some truth in that, yet the film contends with significant challenges. Following the acclaimed Godzilla Minus One from Takashi Yamazaki and Toho Studio and the culmination of Hollywood’s MonsterVerse with Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), GxK emerged as a hastily conceived sequel announced shortly after its predecessor’s success. This rushed aspect manifests in a casual production style that holds back an otherwise intriguing narrative from reaching its potential.

The true merits of GxK lie in its storyline and the expansion of the franchise mythos. Godzilla has long represented a symbol of warfare and a personification of nuclear weaponry. Therefore, the truce at the end of GvK, seeing Kong claim Hollow Earth and Godzilla reign over the surface, felt like a peace accord. However, this peace is ephemeral as Kong, in search of a non-existent family, unwittingly unleashes a force from the depths of Hollow Earth that he can’t defeat alone, prompting the need for an ally in an epic four-way battle.

The film primarily traces Kong’s adventures as he and the audience navigate the wonders and perils of Hollow Earth. Godzilla, conversely, is used sparingly, spending much of the movie either resting in the Colosseum or accumulating power ahead of the decisive battle. Despite his reduced presence, Kong’s narrative is engaging enough to divert attention from Godzilla’s absence. Kong, isolated and showing signs of age, displays a vulnerability and relatability that surpass the film’s human elements.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (English)

Director: Adam Wingard

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

Runtime: 115 minutes

Storyline: Godzilla and Kong join forces to confront a new menace in uncharted lands

The action scenes in GxK, though awe-inspiring, overshadow the underwhelming human narrative. Whether it is the mother-daughter bond between Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and Jia (Kaylee Hottle), Bernie Hayes’ (Brian Tyree Henry) subdued humor, or new character Trapper Beasley’s (Dan Stevens) dull moments, most human scenes feel inconsequential. This contrast is startling given the franchise’s recent, human-centric success with Apple TV’s Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.

GxK ambitiously attempts to merge colossal monster battles with nuanced human consequences, but the result is anything but smooth. Despite some glaring plot conveniences and logical oversights, the film’s action sequences manage to gloss over these flaws. From the introduction of makeshift weapons and prosthetics in Hollow Earth to the grand battles among kaiju, these visual spectacles nearly compensate for the film’s narrative shortcomings.

The film excels during its high-octane action sequences, where the monumental clashes of the Titans take center stage. The engagements between Kong and his adversaries, the spectacle of Godzilla lured into Hollow Earth, and the ultimate showdown with formidable foes are all breathtaking visual feasts.

In the end, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire vacillates between its monster epic and the human struggle to accept their new place in the natural order. While monster flick enthusiasts crave catastrophic showdowns through urban jungles, the film could have benefitted from more focus on these aspects. Despite some groundbreaking world-building and spectacular fight scenes that are occasionally hampered by forced emotive elements, GxK ultimately becomes a transient event rather than a memorable chapter in the saga.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is currently showing in theaters.

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