Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Never underestimate the power of a movie that makes you feel like a kid again. Watching Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire reminded me of sitting in a massive theater gazing up at the screen in awe as it showed Godzilla vs. Megalon and the 1976 version of King Kong. Those larger-than-life creatures captured my imagination and, honestly, never let go. This newest entry in the Warner Bros. “Monsterverse” is a great big, nonsensical hemorrhage of CGI that’s not going to earn points for plot and characterization. It does, however, deliver spectacularly on the promise of giant monsters engaging in epic feuds.

In the follow-up to 2020’s Godzilla vs. Kong, Kong now lives in the Hollow Earth (i.e. the center of the planet). Godzilla is above ground, sleeping inside the Colisseum in Rome. Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) detects bizarre seismic activity coming from Kong’s realm, so she assembles a team that includes large animal dentist Trapper (Dan Stevens) and conspiracy theory podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry). They venture into Hollow Earth, only to discover that the activity is a call for help that will force the adversarial titans to join forces against a common foe, a vicious ape called Skar King.

There’s more to it than that, but describing it is useless because the story is mostly present to bide time between sequences of monster chaos. A whole subplot exists about a “lost” tribe in Hollow Earth and how it relates to Andrews’ adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle). You won’t care about it too much. The game cast holds these sections together. Hall brings a reliable sense of purpose to her character, while Stevens and Henry provide appealing comic relief.

Universal

We’re here for the monsters. We get them. Boy, do we ever get them. Godzilla and Kong do battle among the pyramids in Egypt. Kong and a baby ape take on Skar King and his minions. The last twenty-five minutes constitute an enormous, destruction-heavy melee that incorporates another familiar kaiju from the world of Godzilla and sees Kong fitted with a mechanical arm for extra punch strength. If you grew up loving monster movies of this sort, it’s almost impossible not to feel a little giddy about it all. Director Adam Wingard is obviously a fan himself, so the mayhem is staged with real enthusiasm.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire must be approached with that mindset. The film makes no pretention of being anything other than a wild ride with these beloved characters. A willingness to not take itself too seriously is the tipoff. Certain moments are clearly meant to be funny or self-mocking. Whereas a picture like Godzilla Minus One - which is admittedly superior - uses the kaiju concept to explore deeper themes, Wingard and crew are coming from a more visceral angle. If a 9-year-old kid playing with Godzilla and King Kong action figures could have their ideas magically transferred to the screen, the result would not be terribly different from what we get.

My mind ran on two tracks for most of the running time. The intellectual side was saying, “This is silly and empty CGI overload.” The emotional side was saying, “I’m having a lot of fun watching this.” Both sides were fighting, just like Godzilla and King Kong. In the end, the emotional side won out. Feeling like a kid again for a couple hours was a wonderful detour in my day.


out of four

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is rated PG-13 for creature violence and action. The running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan