Review: ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’

Titans Team-Up For Big Dumb Fun In The Monsterverse's Latest Smash 'em Up Sequel

Legendary’s Monsterverse is only five movies deep, and yet it feels like it has been a dozen movies over twenty years. That’s not a good thing. With each passing movie, the Titan lore grows thicker, the presence of humans in each CGI slugfest becomes increasingly pointless, and the cool factor of watching kaiju clash for the sake of the planet becomes weaker. But Legendary and director Adam Wingard have come up with something of a solution. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire still has all of the problems I just laid out, but unlike the previous films this one goes ham on the dumb fun like never before.

I’m convinced that Wingard and a host of screenwriters know they’re making a really stupid movie with Godzilla x Kong. And so they embrace every ridiculous aspect, from the deadly dry exposition by the most boring character in the movie, to Dan Stevens acting like the hybrid son of Sam Neill in Jurassic Park and Fool’s Gold-era Matthew McConaughey, to a Planet of the Apes-esque sequence where I swear one ape is ruling like the Hollow Earth version of Scarface. This is a movie that gives Kong a damn Power Glove to punch things with. All of it is silly, over-the-top, and pretty damn awesome, too.

Of course, we have to wade through the slog of silly human emotions and shit. Jia (the returning Kaylee Hottle), the Skull Island girl who can sense and communicate with Kong, isn’t fitting in at school…which just happens to be some kind of institution run by Monarch, the Titan tracking group that recently had its own show on Apple TV+. She picks up on a distress signal coming from Hollow Earth, an area that has yet to be explored. The signal is causing Godzilla to go on a rampage, destroying poor Rome (the Colosseum is like his pullout couch now) as he challenges other Titans to calamitous battles.

Fortunately, after surviving a furious chase by a pack of hyena-monsters looking to eat his furry flesh, Kong is on Earth in need of a dental appointment. Literally swinging in to the rescue is Stevens as Trapper, and he’s, get this, a veterinarian who specializes in treating Titans. We know he’s a wild man because he cranks the 70’s pop tunes up real high as he performs his dangerous work, and because Monarch scientist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall, said boring character) informs him/us that she thought being a vet would be too dull for him.  Oh, and naturally the two are former college flames, not that there’s ANY romantic chemistry between them at all.

But then, there really isn’t time for there to be any steaming hot passion by the puny humans. After recruiting Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), the conspiracist who became a hero in the last movie, Ilene, Trapper, Jia, and some doomed a-hole head down to Hollow Earth to see what’s up. In short: Kong, who they keep telling us is in search of a family, finds a hidden race of apes just like him. That includes the annoyingly whiny Baby Kong (or Diddy Kong, like I call him) who becomes his makeshift sidekick. However, there’s also the cruel Skar King, who enslaves his kind and houses a monster with the power to turn the entire world into a ball of ice.

A major problem is that Godzilla doesn’t really fit into any of this. It was a problem in Godzilla vs Kong, but it’s an even greater issue now. Godzilla, who is more popular than ever right now after Godzilla Minus One, is kept out of the story for a huge chunk of the movie, so fans who show up for him will be disappointed. But the thing that viewers really want to see is Godzilla and Kong together, so this approach is counterproductive. Kong is purely the hero here, and he looks the part. They are clearly painting him as the centerpiece of the Monsterverse, with Godzilla as the clean-up hitter. I don’t know how that works in the long run. They will continue to run into problems trying to come up with reasons for these two to interact, and to make us give a damn about the human characters. The best solution could be to quit with the crossovers and go back to solo movies for a while.

Fortunately,  Godzilla x Kong is mostly aware of all of the stuff that doesn’t work. Hall delivers utterly monotonous info dumps that don’t make a lick of sense, but her character has never felt more meaningless. Stevens is just enjoying the ride for what it is, and the same goes for Henry. Hottle pretty much has only one thing to do which is look worried for Kong, and since she doesn’t actually speak, it’s okay that she was out-acted by a bunch of CGI primates, a giant lizard, and…well, I’ll leave the rest a secret.

Wingard has been given the freedom to go nuts with Godzilla x Kong, and it shows. The film looks great as Kong and Godzilla clash, pink atomic flames and giant robot fists engulfing the entire screen. It’s surprising they didn’t wait a few months to release this, because it feels like it belongs as a summer popcorn spectacle. If you’re going to see Godzilla x Kong this weekend, do yourself a favor and take it as seriously as the filmmakers clearly did, which is not at all. Just have fun with it.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire opens in theaters on March 29th.


Godzilla x Kong
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-godzilla-x-kong-the-new-empireLegendary's Monsterverse is only five movies deep, and yet it feels like it has been a dozen movies over twenty years. That's not a good thing. With each passing movie, the Titan lore grows thicker, the presence of humans in each CGI slugfest becomes...