Friday, March 29, 2024

Review: "GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE" is Entertaining, Imaginative and Extraneous

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 of 2024 (No. 1962) by Leroy Douresseaux

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)
Running time: 115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for creature violence and action
DIRECTOR:  Adam Wingard
WRITERS:  Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, and Jeremy Slater; from a story by Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, and Adam Wingard (based on characters owned by Toho Co., Ltd.)
PRODUCERS:  Alex Garcia, Eric McLeod, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, and Thomas Tull
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ben Seresin (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Josh Schaeffer
COMPOSERS:  Tom Holkenborg and Antonio Di Iorio


Starring:  Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, Fala Chen, Rachel House, Ron Smyck, Chantelle Jamieson, Greg Hatton, and Kevin Copeland


-- Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is as visually stunning as the two previous MonsterVerse series films, and the monster-fight action is awesome.

-- However, the story is not compelling, and the characters feel like props.  Thus, Godzilla x Kong is really for fans of the series.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is a 2024 monster movie and science fiction-fantasy adventure film directed by Adam Wingard.  Produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, this film is the fourth entry in the “MonsterVerse” film series, which began with Godzilla (2014).  Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire brings the two ancient titans together in order to fight an ancient, prophesied threat to the surface world.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire opens some time after the defeat of Mechagodzilla (as seen in Godzilla vs. Kong).  In the “Hollow Earth,” Kong is in the process of establishing his territory, which means defeating vicious predators.  Monarch has planted a base in Hollow Earth, Monarch Outpost One, in order to monitor Kong.  That outpost itself is monitored on the surface by a Monarch base in Barbados, which is where Kong expert and Monarch scientist, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), lives with her adopted daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last living member of Skull Island's indigenous tribe, the Iwi.

Jia is deaf and communicates with Kong via sign language.  She has begun experiencing dreams, flashbacks, and hallucinations that seem to be related to a signal emanating from somewhere in the Hollow Earth.  Godzilla, who has been romping across Europe is also sensing that signal, and the King of the Monsters is absorbing energy in preparation for some unknown, coming battle.

Kong explores a sinkhole near his home and discovers an uncharted region hidden within the Hollow Earth.  Exploring it, he finally encounters other giant apes like himself, including an adolescent giant ape.  However, these giant apes are aggressive and apparently serve a mysterious alpha giant ape leader, and this leader controls something that not only endangers the Hollow Earth, but also the surface world.  Only Kong and Godzilla can end this threat, but will the Earth's two greatest Titans join forces or just try to kill each other, again?

The “MonsterVerse” is an American multimedia franchise that includes movies; a streaming live-action television series (Apple TV+) and a streaming animated series (Netflix); books and comic books; and video games.  It is a shared fictional universe that includes the character, “Godzilla” and other characters owned and created by the Japanese entertainment company, Toho Co., Ltd.  The MonsterVerse is a reboot of Toho's Godzilla franchise.  It is also a reboot of the King Kong franchise, which is based on the character, “King Kong,” that was created by actor and filmmaker, Merian C. Cooper (1893-1973).

In preparation for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, I watched and reviewed the previous four films in MonsterVerse series.  They are Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire has a hard act to follow in the previous film, Godzilla vs. Kong, and while the new film is entertaining, it never really establishes the stakes of the conflicts it depicts.  To me, the threat didn't really seem like it would lead to the end of the world.  Godzilla x Kong is loud and proud, a true monster movie built on sensations, muscular CGI, and visually stunning visual special effects.  Godzilla x Kong is big, bigger, BIG, and it probably should be seen on IMAX, but its story is no bigger than a mini-max.

Godzilla x Kong exists because Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Entertainment want it to exist as a product designed to make a lot of money now and to continue contributing to the MonsterVerse revenue stream for some time to come.  It's not that I did not enjoy Godzilla vs. Kong.  I laughed several times, and it did hold my attention.  It is probably the least dark film in the series, but it is also the least important.  Honestly, I think Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire director Adam Wingard made a much more compelling film with his 2011 feature, You're Next, which was made for .007 percent of Godzilla x Kong's budget.  [You're Next's screenplay was written by Wingard's frequent collaborator, writer Simon Barrett, who is also a co-writer on Godzilla x Kong.]

Another strange thing about this film is that the characters all feel unnecessary.  Kaylee Hottle's Jia is very important to Godzilla x Kong's narrative, but Jia often feels like a prop.  Dan Stevens' Trapper is a generic character, played by Stevens with generic verve.  I liked Brian Tyree Henry's Bernie Hayes in Godzilla vs. Kong, but here, he feels too frantic and forced.  I get that Hayes is comic relief, but has become too much comic relief.  Hayes is utterly wasted here – half chatterbox, half-on-the-edge-of-being-substantial.

I pushed Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire from my mind as soon as I got up from my seat in the theater.  Still, fans of the MonsterVerse films will likely really enjoy it.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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