Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Is a Giant-Sized Triumph

(L to R) GODZILLA and KONG in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

I’ve been deliriously excited for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. Not only am I a huge kaiju fanatic, but this film also features two of my favorite fictional characters of all time, so I couldn’t wait to see them team up to face a threat neither one could defeat alone. I bought a ticket for opening night as soon as I could, and after finally getting to see the movie, I’m happy to report that it does not disappoint.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire was directed by Adam Wingard, and it stars Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, and Kaylee Hottle. In the film, Kong finds his way to an unexplored area in Hollow Earth, and to his surprise, he discovers a hidden population of giant apes just like him. At first, it appears that he may have finally found a family to call his own, but we soon learn that something is deeply wrong with these creatures. They’re ruled by a despotic tyrant called the Skar King, and this evil titan also controls another, much more formidable creature called Shimo.

At the same time, a handful of human characters travel to Hollow Earth and come upon a previously unknown Iwi civilization (the same people who lived on Skull Island, Kong’s former home), and they find out that the Skar King desperately wants to escape Hollow Earth and make it to the surface. As luck would have it, the tyrannical ape’s encounter with Kong allows him to do just that, so Kong has to team up with Godzilla to stop the Skar King and Shimo from taking over the world.

As you can probably guess from that brief plot synopsis, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is just as Kong-centric as the last MonsterVerse movie, Godzilla vs. Kong. This is definitely Kong’s story, and Godzilla is basically just there to back him up in the climactic third-act battle. That being said, we still get a good amount of Godzilla action in the first two acts. We see him fight some cool kaiju a couple of times, and for my money, those scenes are more than enough to hold us over until the main event.

The Skar King roaring
SKAR KING in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

In contrast, Kong’s role in the film is surprisingly meaty, even compared to Godzilla vs. Kong. There are multiple long stretches where it’s just him and some other monsters, without a single human in sight, and I really enjoyed those parts. Not only do they feature a ton of fun action, but they also tell a surprisingly heartwarming story. See, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is essentially a traditional good-versus-evil tale, but it’s about giant monsters rather than people. Kong is the good guy and the Skar King is the bad guy, and director Adam Wingard does a great job of showing the difference between these two titans.

On the one hand, Kong is kind-hearted and compassionate, and he genuinely cares about his fellow apes even though he only just found out about them. For example, there’s a scene where he sees one of the Skar King’s minions mistreating one of the worker apes, and he immediately steps in and stands up for the poor creature. On the other hand, the Skar King rules through fear and intimidation, and he has no qualms about killing his workers for the smallest of offenses.

As you can tell from those two examples alone, these titans really embody the struggle between good and evil, and that’s what makes Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire such an engaging story. It’s not just about cool kaiju chaos. There’s real emotional and thematic substance here, and even though some people might criticize it for not being particularly nuanced, I actually think its simplicity is one of its strengths. It’s good versus evil in its purest form, and in an era when so many films try to be edgy and complex, it’s always refreshing to see one that goes back to basics and reminds us of what’s really important in life–being the best, most compassionate people we can be.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the human story in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is pretty thin, but I didn’t mind that. As I said, this is Kong’s story, so the humans don’t have to carry much of the narrative load. They’re basically just there to help us learn more about Hollow Earth and the Skar King’s backstory, and in that regard, they’re more than up to the task. I really enjoyed diving deeper than ever into the mythology behind the Monsterverse, so I never felt like I wanted to fast-forward through the human parts to get to the “good stuff.”

Three people walkng side by side
(L-R) DAN STEVENS as Trapper, REBECCA HALL as Dr. Ilene Andrews, and KAYLEE HOTTLE as Jia in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Then, when Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire moves on from the setup to the big finale, it gets even better. Seeing the two titular titans work together is an absolute blast, and since we know how evil the Skar King is, it’s great watching him get his ass kicked. What’s more, the third act also features a surprise appearance from a fan-favorite kaiju (although if you’ve seen the Chinese marketing for the film, it won’t be a surprise) and a wild, Showa era-esque moment involving Godzilla and Kong, so it’s genuinely everything I could’ve asked for.

All that being said, I have to acknowledge that Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is by no means perfect. For starters, the plot doesn’t always make 100% airtight sense, and things sometimes happen just because the plot needs them to happen. But to be frank, I went into the movie expecting those kinds of issues. They’re pretty much par for the course with this franchise, so I didn’t find them too bothersome.

However, I did have one serious problem with the film–the CGI. The MonsterVerse is generally known for having excellent visual effects, but this time, they’re not always up to par. In particular, Shimo looks pretty terrible. Granted, there are one or two shots where she’s believable, but most of the time, she looks like the filmmakers just ran out of time or money (or both!).

That took me out of the story a couple of times, but thankfully, it’s nowhere near enough to derail the entire experience. On the whole, the good in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire still outweighs the bad by a pretty wide margin. The movie features the best Kong story since the original King Kong, a fun exploration of titan lore, and a boatload of really cool giant monster fights, so if you’re a kaiju fan, I think you’ll have a great time with this film.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is playing in theaters right now.

Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong movie fan, and his favorite genres are horror, superheroes, and giant monsters.

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  1. What do these megafauna actually eat to grow to and sustain such gigantic proportions. And how big are they at birth?

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