Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Review: The Earth is Not The Only Thing Hollow Here

There is a certain elegance in letting oneself go. Forget expectations and obligations, and just focus on finding joy in what seems to matter most. To a certain degree, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire has let itself go. Plot and character development are forgotten in lieu of effects and titan battles, and it sometimes works just fine. Though, when it tries to clasp to the remaining dregs of audience sympathy manipulation and world building it teeters toward collapse.

The film picks up a bit of time after its direct predecessor, Godzilla vs. Kong with a few of the same characters. Rebecca Hall as Ilene is the head of managing Hollow Earth’s research, and her adoptive daughter and Skull Island orphan Jia (Kaylee Hottle) is starting to go through pre-teen rebellion and a need to find her place in the world. Thankfully, Brian Tyree Henry is also back as internet armchair researcher and podcaster Bernie, bringing with him some much-needed humor.

Don’t remember any of this from director Adam Wingard’s previous film? Don’t worry about it! For the most part Godzilla x Kong is a stand-alone entry into their cinematic universe, in that the important bits of exposition are covered early and clearly, and frankly do not seem to matter too much.

The real star, and truthfully the only joy to be found in the film, is the massive battles amongst titans. Both on the Earth’s surface and below in Hollow Earth, Kong and Gozilla are fighting their fights for survival and to remain at the top of the pecking order. Though Godzilla’s motives for battles are initially unknown, that does not stop them from being far flung across the globe and good, splashy fun.

Advertisements

Kong’s mission is more of a personal undertaking as he fights to survive in Hollow Earth and search for where he belongs. As the elected emotional anchor of the titans in this series, there feels like more riding on the outcome of his battles, but they rise to be just as bloody and inventive as Godzilla’s skirmishes.

If all that is expected of a kaiju versus gargantuan gorilla film is some epic battles for honor and a few new creatures sprinkled in to heighten the stakes, then Godzilla x Kong mostly succeeds. The running time is largely dedicated to those expectations, and it knows what is wanted.

However, like so many monster movies (with the glaring exceptions of Godzilla Minus One and Shin Godzilla) the movie stumbles hard when it comes to forcing a human plot around all that good jungle mayhem. Kong’s search for belonging mirrors Jia’s similar path, though they are both handled very differently. Without needing to or ever fully addressing it, Godzilla x Kong chooses to veer into issues of slavery and captivity. Taking on such heavy material in a light but ferocious context feels reductive and convenient. Similarly Ilena’s reunion with former college friend and (I swear I am not making this up) Kong dentist Trapper (Dan Stevens) feels like a reason to have the two characters flirt a bit, without any character or plot value added.

But in the end, Kong and Godzilla and friends all fight the good fight while we get to sit back and take it all in. If that was the singular goal of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, it sure did do that thing.

Advertisements



Comments

Advertisement



Advertisement


Advertisement