Review: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire


Since last year, I guess you can say I’ve been on a bit of a Godzilla kick. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the King of the Monsters, but after being blown away by what Godzilla Minus One accomplished, my interest in watching big monsters rampage and destroy everything around them was rekindled. Yes, I was initially drawn into the film just to see a big lizard destroy Tokyo, but there was also artistry and a solid emotional core that Minus One had going for it which elevated it beyond my expectations. So it took a bit of time for me to realize while watching Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire that I had to lower my expectations.

The Monsterverse movies, of which there are five of them, and a TV show, exist in this weird narrative space for me. It feels as if each entry is always in conflict with itself trying to balance the human drama of living in a world with these titanic beasts and satisfying the need to watch said big monsters punch and bite each other senseless. Up until this point, I don’t think the Monsterverse films have been able to find that balance, but to Godzilla x Kong’s credit, it definitely falls on the side of giving us plenty of monster action over petty human drama, which is, statistically speaking, the correct option.

For as much as I may love those parts, much like when you eat too much ice cream and become sick of it, too many monster brawls can be a bit of a bad thing. Consequently, Godzilla x Kong begins to get a bit fatigued as the film goes on.

Godzilla x Kong : The New Empire | Official Trailer

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire
Director: Adam Wingard
Release Date: March 29, 2024 (Theatrical)
Rating: PG-13

Set years after the events of Godzilla vs. KongGodzilla and King Kong have developed boundaries in their hatred of each other. Kong now lives in the subterranean and prehistoric Hollow Earth, where monsters, known as Titans, roam free, while Godzilla is content to live on the surface and kick the crap out of any Titans that live up there. Kong is lonely, though, being the only giant ape around, so he begins to explore the Hollow Earth and discovers more giant monkeys isolated away from the other Titans. The problem is that these monkeys are forced to serve the tyrannical Skar King, who once waged war against Godzilla only to be barely repelled by the King of the Monsters. Now, the Skar King and his pet Titan, Shimo (a Titan that literally caused the first major Ice Age), are planning to escape the Hollow Earth and return to the surface, forcing Godzilla and King Kong to team up to stop them.

Oh, and there are humans I guess. They don’t really matter, but they sure are there watching this all happen.

I’ll give Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire this: it knows why we’re there. We want to see giant monsters fight each other and by God it delivers. After the vertigo-inducing first shot, we open with Kong brawling with a ton of weird stegosaurus-like creatures and the fighting rarely lets up. The spectacle is here and a lot of the action is just plain fun to watch. The climax has a really cool anti-gravity sequence where monsters are flying around trying to kill each other and my favorite scene in the movie involves Kong meeting the little Baby Kong that we’ve seen so much of in the trailers and using it as a club to smash other monsters in the face. It’s brilliant. If you thought the last movie had too much meaningless human drama, this is the polar opposite.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t any humans here. Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry return from Godzilla x Kong to track Kong and figure out what’s causing these weird electromagnetic signals from Hollow Earth, but they mostly explore the environment and rarely have any meaningful impact on the plot. They’re spectators of the action and only get involved to offer King Kong a power-up and get the anti-gravity sequence off the ground. It is somewhat weird how Dan Stevens plays a character who acts like he’s always been in this franchise despite this being his character’s debut, but it ultimately doesn’t matter as his character is charming enough that you kind of go with the flow and ignore a lot of the unnecessary elements.

Review: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Copyright: Warner Bros.

Godzilla x Kong is the definition of a movie where you turn off your brain and watch. If the overwhelming amount of action wasn’t an indicator of where this movie’s priorities lie, then how the film barrels through its opening scenes will do the job. In about 15 minutes, our human characters are introduced, their relationships are established, and then we’re sent down into the Hollow Earth to follow Kong on his adventures to find other apes. The movie attempts to establish side plots and character arcs about the impact that Godzilla is having on the surface world and lessons that our heroes may learn during their time in the Hollow Earth, but then the film just openly says to the camera that the themes it’s trying to establish are stupid and don’t matter.

My favorite example of this is when Dan Stevens’ character is talking to Bryan Tyree Henry about attempting to preserve the beauty and the serenity of the Hollow Earth by leaving it undocumented. Henry spends most of the movie walking around with a camera trying to record everything he sees for his podcast and website while Stevens tries to instill in him that nature should be left undisturbed and unsullied by man. Henry then pauses, points the camera at him, and asks him to repeat exactly what he just said to his viewers. You gotta love a movie that flagrantly ignores any attempt to add depth and nuance. This is a film that is totally comfortable with that fact and revels in it.

And yet, when the monsters begin to fight, something isn’t right. It doesn’t have anything to do with the special effects or the creativity of the fight scenes, but rather with the setting itself. Hollow Earth, as a location, is an okay setting. There are lush forests, giant lakes, molten lava streams, and even humongous crystals growing out of the ground. Several shots of it are wonderful and impressive, but eventually, you become accustomed to it. When everything is so large and grandiose, it makes it hard to establish a sense of scale, making these gargantuan monsters come across as normal-sized or, God forbid, small.

Review: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Copyright: Warner Bros.

It’s hard to accurately describe, but the reason why some of the later action scenes work so well is because we have a frame of reference for just how big Titans like Godzilla and Kong are. When we see the two monsters fight each other by the Pyramid of Giza, it’s thrilling because we see all of the destruction these two beasts cause to real-world locations. We have a frame of reference for us to compare. When Godzilla throws a skyscraper at King Kong, it’s a great moment because we know for a fact just how big a skyscraper is and the amount of destruction that must have caused. When King Kong throws a rock at another giant ape in the Hollow Earth, it’s not all that satisfying because we don’t have that same frame of reference for scale. Because the Hollow Earth is so big, whenever the Titans fight in the Hollow Earth, it makes the action seem smaller, thereby making it less entertaining.

So for most of the action scenes, I kept on thinking that they should be better than they are. I think that Godzilla x Kong ultimately made the right decision to focus more on the monster action, it’s just a shame that the setting really serves to deflate a lot of that. This is a movie that commits to one direction and sticks to it, for better or worse, but it still gives viewers exactly what they want. It fulfills its goal of having two of the most iconic kaiju of all time teaming up to fight even bigger monsters with minimum set-up and drama. I suppose if you’re invested in the overarching drama surrounding the Monsterverse, which I personally find hard to believe, then you may be a bit disappointed by Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. To everyone else, you’ll be pretty satisfied.

A lot of the film will feel very much like it’s in one ear and out the other. Eventually, the fights do all blend together and once you realize that most of the King Kong fight scenes are pretty similar, the impact will surely be lessened. Also, if you’ve seen the excellent Godzilla Minus One then you’re almost certainly going to come away from this film thinking that Americans should stop making Godzilla movies. But if you just want to see a big CGI monster duke it out for a little less than two hours, you could certainly do worse.




Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire manages to deliver some kaiju action, but the setting does interfere with its execution and after a while it starts to lose its impact. A good time, but you'll forget about it in a week or two.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.