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‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ (review)

A few weeks ago, Godzilla Minus One made history when the 70-year-old kaiju won its first Academy Award, celebrating the visual effects of Takashi Yamazaki’s 2023 film, which had showcased one of the most intimidating realizations of the titanic, radioactive creature to date.

Having an altogether more somber tone than most kaiju films, Godzilla Minus One was well-received by audiences and critics alike, thanks to how its performances and themes elevated the film to be a compelling human drama first and a kaiju epic second.

On the other hand, the Hollywood version of Godzilla is usually nothing more than an excuse to showcase destruction for the sake of destruction, as Godzilla’s allegorical nature is absent in these reiterations.

Similar to Godzilla’s role in Japanese culture, Kong may serve as an allegorical figure in Western film mythos, often considered to be an allegory for man’s destruction of nature, but this symbolism has been cast to the wayside in the MonsterVerse rendition of Kong, where he is simply yet another colossal creature capable of immense destruction.

This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with giant monsters causing mayhem for the sake of mayhem, especially not if your inner 12-year-old is alive and well, as that kind of lighthearted, far-fetched fun can be a liberating way to consume entertainment from time to time.

After having had many tonal shifts, with 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, the MonsterVerse seemed to have finally settled on a playful tone that did not aspire to anything more than simply entertaining audiences with the multi million dollar movie equivalent of a kid smashing action figures together.

Having more in common with Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim than Michael Bay’s Transformers, Adam Wingard created something as entertaining as it was inconsequential with Godzilla vs. Kong, and the filmmaker continues to expand on his approach with Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.

The Hollow Earth is elaborated upon and expanded in a manner that is largely satisfying, even if there are times in the middle of the film in particular where the pacing begins to drag.

There is a plot here, but it is a deeply convoluted one, as there is no pretense that this is anything other than an excuse to watch gargantuan creatures pummel each other like a kaiju version of Wrestlemania.

Aside from Brian Tyree Henry and Dan Stevens having a few memorable moments, the human characters are largely inconsequential, and overwhelmingly serve as vessels of exposition dumping, which does at times get tedious.

This will undoubtedly make the film excruciating to sit through for some, and it should be stressed that disengaging your brain before going into the theater significantly improves the viewing experience, which culminates with a finale that is delightful in all its over-the-top glory.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is a big, brightly-colored, loud CGI fest that emulates the Saturday morning cartoons of the 80s in the most bloated way possible. There is absolutely nothing of substance to be found here, but the film is so unapologetic about what it is that it ultimately does well at being mindless, family-friendly fun for kids of all ages, and that makes this silly nonsense somewhat charming.

Verdict: 6 out of 10.

*  *  *  *  *  *
Produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Brian Rogers,
Mary Parent, Alex Garcia. Eric McLeod

Story by Terry Rossio, Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett
Screenplay by Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, Jeremy Slater
Based on Godzilla and Mothra by Toho Co., Ltd.
Directed by Adam Wingard
Starring Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry,
Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, Fala Chen

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