Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)

Picking up where its incredibly fun predecessor left off, Adam Wingard’s Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire finds the two former foes fighting together against a new foe in an existential battle for the earth and its most vulnerable inhabitants, humans. Key cast members Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, and Kaylee Hottle return and are joined by new addition Dan Stevens in this rip roaring, action-packed, sometimes frustrating continuation of Legendary’s Monsterverse franchise.

Following the apocalyptic battle between Godzilla, Kong, and Mecha Godzilla in 2021’s Godzilla Vs. Kong, the two titans have staked their claims on their relative realms, Godzilla takes the planet’s surface, while Kong reigns over the newly discovered Hollow Earth. However, when an unknown force begins sending mysterious signals, Jia (Hottle) – the lone surviving member of the Iwi tribe tasked with protecting Kong on Skull Island – senses something very big about to happen. It isn’t just her; Godzilla seems to be getting those same signals and he begins gearing up for a war, but no one knows exactly what the threat is, just that it is new, very dangerous, and unlike anything they’ve seen.

As promised years ago when the project was first announced, this is an enemy that is going to require the collective energies of Godzilla and Kong – and maybe a friend or two – to take down, and so begins the Titan team up we’ve been waiting for. Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire takes the comic book energy of its immediate predecessor and continues cranking up the volume until it reaches apex monster action nonsense. Your mileage may vary here with the paucity of emotional stakes and aggressive silliness of the plotting, but for those of us with a high tolerance for computer generated carnage and a love for the campier era of the Japanese Godzilla series, there’s a lot to like here.

Wingard reteams with GVK story man Terry Rossio and his old compatriot Simon Barrett (The Guest, You’re Next) on the screenplay for GXK, and the result pushes the series nearly into camp territory with its over the top action set-pieces, characters, and big swings. At first it can feel a bit jarring, a lot of the plot and action is (over)explained in frequent inelegant exposition dumps from Dr. Ilene Andrews (Hall), whose entire job seems to be explaining what Godzilla and Kong are doing because they don’t speak English. It bugged me a lot at first, but once I realized that it’s really no different than what scientists in those ‘70s Godzilla monster mash-ups did, I loosened up a bit. Does it play for a modern audience? That’s another question entirely.

With some unknown calamity on the way, Andrews re-recruits conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Henry) to join her mission with Jia and – for some reason that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I don’t hate it – the Ace Ventura cosplaying daredevil Titan dentist Trapper (Stevens) to travel to Hollow Earth and investigate. There’s just a whiff of character development as the quartet travel through unexplored regions deep within the Earth, but it’s mostly adventure with Stevens’ Trapper leading the way.

We swing back and forth between the monsters and our human heroes pretty frequently, with the Titans getting plenty of time for their own adventures. Not unlike 2022’s Indian breakout hit, RRR, both Kong and Godzilla get their own introductory battle sequences, both ending with delightfully gooey explosions of CG monster gore. If there’s one thing that GXK doesn’t shy away from, cartoony violence and bloody monster mayhem. It is a bit shocking what PG-13 films are able to get away with these days when it comes to digital dismemberment, but it never really looks real, which both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the entertainment factor.

This entry in the series definitely throws most of the focus onto the monsters, even attempting – with moderate success – to imbue Kong with an interiority and emotional life as he searches for more of his own kind. Later exposition dumps will reveal that the titans, including our new villains, do treat Earth as their own and have fought many wars over the centuries. Godzilla doesn’t come out looking like much more than an enforcer, but the apes seem to have a complex hierarchical society like the one hinted at in the Hollow Earth ruins of Godzilla Vs Kong. For the most part, it works, though the addition of a “mini Kong” could land either with a big smile or an even bigger thud, depending on the viewers tolerance for Scrappy Doo/Minilla style sidekicks – yet another allusion to the gonzo kaiju mashups of Godzilla’s wilderness years.

The screenplay for Godzilla X Kong really throws everything at the film in the hopes that some of it lands, and a lot does. Surprise foes and allies turn out to be crowd pleasers when the kaiju crap hits the fan in the dizzying action of the final act, the dual performances of Dan Stevens’ alpha male, extrovert kaiju doctor and Henry’s perpetual wonderment at having been invited to witness the phenomena he’s spent years hypothesizing about play really well against each other. There are some flat moments when the film stops in its tracks to explain some nonsensical science or throws us down an unnecessary rabbit hole, but it’s never too long before another big battle sequence reminds us why we’re there.

There is some light philosophizing, but it’s largely very innocuous, Godzilla X Kong doesn’t have much to say. Godzilla Minus One it certainly is not. But if you’re into bombast like I am, and was a fan of GVK, you’ll find a lot to like here. Godzilla X Kong turns up the crazy with every passing scene, and just when you think they have nowhere left to escalate to, they turn every single dial to 11, and it’s a blast. I wish it was a little but shorter, but these days I say that about every movie, and I can say that every time I think I’m falling out of it, something nuts happens and reels me right back in. This is a fun one.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

  • Adam Wingard
  • Terry Rossio
  • Simon Barrett
  • Jeremy Slater
  • Rebecca Hall
  • Dan Stevens
  • Rachel House
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Adam WingardTerry RossioSimon BarrettJeremy SlaterRebecca HallDan StevensRachel HouseActionAdventureSci-Fi

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