Movie Songs

‘Godzilla x Kong’ review: Film delivers same old monster song and dance

March 28, 20245 Mins Read

At one point in the teeth-rattling and cheerfully dumb but ultimately wearisome monster mash titled “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” Godzilla acquires a pinkish glow for reasons we don’t need to get into, and I couldn’t help but think: Godzilla Barbie!

I mean, I guess Godzilla is a dude, but it was kinda cool to see the Titan sporting a fuchsia tone. (Pinkzilla!)

That’s the kind of detail one enjoys when enduring the fifth film in the MonsterVerse franchise, following “Godzilla” (2014), “Kong: Skull Island” (2017), “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019) and 2021’s “Godzilla vs. Kong,” because the mind tends to wander during the seemingly endless/mindless action sequences.

“Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire”

While I’ve enjoyed some of these Monsterverse films more than others, I’ve always admired the craftsmanship and the modern-day, drive-in-movie spirit of the franchise. But there comes a time when despite the admittedly impressive location shooting and VFX, it becomes a bit of a chore to sit through the predictable spectacle of various monsters tossing each other about while smashing cities and beaches and jungles as tiny humans scramble for safety.

Is that all there is?

In this case, unfortunately the answer is yes. Despite the addition of some new characters (human and otherwise), “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” comes across as a relatively uninspired and repetitive effort and a fairly forgettable chapter in the Monsterverse saga.

“The New Empire” picks up the story in the aftermath of the events of “Godzilla vs. Kong,” with the two Titans having retreated to neutral corners, or should we say levels, of the world.

The mighty Godzilla roams the planet above the surface, while Kong’s domain is Hollow Earth, the world beneath our world that is filled with wondrous landscapes (the visuals pop with bright colors throughout) and is populated by a myriad of creatures, some of whom looked like they escaped from “Jurassic Park” while others have a kind of futuristic nastiness.

In the early going, director Adam Wingard and screenwriters Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett and Jeremy Slater establish the foundation for two concurrent storylines that we know will eventually intersect.

In the above-ground world, Kaylee Hottle’s Jia, the deaf orphan girl and adopted daughter of the anthropological linguist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), is feeling isolated and lost because she’s the last known Iwi and is having great difficulties fitting in.

Meanwhile, down in Hollow Earth, Jia’s old friend King Kong is going through a similar existential crisis because he’s the last of HIS kind. Even when Kong just wants to relax after a hard day of capturing and killing his prey, he can’t enjoy a juicy and quite gross meal without some creatures stealing a piece of the bounty and scurrying away. It ain’t easy being Kong, man!

As Godzilla evolves and goes through some major changes that are causing great concern among the humans, Kong discovers there actually are others similar to him deep in the bowels of Hollow Earth — but they’re living in horrific and hellish circumstances, working as slave labor under the ruthless wrath of the evil and sadistic Skar King. Looks like it’s time for Dr. Ilene to assemble a crew to make the journey to Hollow Earth and see what’s up with Kong and whether it connects to what’s going on with Godzilla, so off we go!

Ilene’s team includes the underground conspiracy influencer Bernie Hayes (a returning Brian Tyree Henry), who comes along mainly because these kinds of movies need comic relief; and a new character in Dan Stevens’ Trapper, a knockoff Han Solo type who is basically a thrill-seeking veterinarian who specializes in treating Titans. (Big fan of Dan Stevens here since his days on “Downton Abbey,” but this is a case of miscasting. We just don’t buy him as a rough-and-ready free spirit.)

Godzilla grows ever more powerful and dangerous. Kong is wounded in more ways than one, but with the help of Dr. Ilene and Jia and Trapper, the big guy is ready to join the fight.

“Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” is the definition of an old-fashioned (with new technology) popcorn movie and there’s certainly no harm in that, but at the end of the day, it feels like the stakes have never been more medium.

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