‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ review: The Titans deliver, the film... not so much

With jaw-dropping action sequences that are interrupted by redundant excuses to infuse emotion and drama, the fantastic highs and upsetting lows make ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’a forgettable spectacle.

March 29, 2024 12:29 pm | Updated 12:49 pm IST

A still from ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’

A still from ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Director Adam Wingard’s Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (GxK) might sound like an easy cash grab for its production studio, and while that’s partly true, the film still had an uphill battle to face. Apart from Takashi Yamazaki-Toho Studio’s Godzilla Minus OneOscar win, the Hollywood films of this series culminated in Godzilla vs. Kong(2021) for which the MonsterVerse franchise and shared universe initially began. The fact that GvK’s success paved the way for GxK, a sequel that was announced a year after the latter’s release, speaks volumes about it being an afterthought. This is reflected in the lackadaisical approach the new film has which prevents its otherwise fascinating plot from metamorphosing into something better.

Apart from the titular heroes of GxK, it’s the plot and how it expands the lore of the franchise that make up the best bits of the film. Considering Godzilla has been a metaphor for war and an allegory of nuclear weapons, it would not be an overstatement to call the climax of GvK a war and the titans going their separate ways with Kong taking over Hollow Earth and Godzilla ruling the surface, to be a peace treaty. This truce is short-lived when Kong, “trying to find a family that doesn’t exist”, opens Hollow Earth’s Pandora’s box, only to find a new, powerful nemesis that cannot be taken down on his own and brings in a tag-team partner for a fatal four-way showdown.

A still from ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’

A still from ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

GxK predominantly follows the trials and tribulations of Kong as he, along with the audience, explores Hollow Earth and uncovers its pleasant and darkest secrets. Godzilla, on the other hand, is reduced to a Chekhov’s Gun as he spends more than half the film’s runtime either taking a nap inside the Colosseum or chomping up nuclear plants to ‘super-charge’ for the climactic face-off. The character arc of Kong is mercifully fascinating enough for us to look past the absence of the King of the Monsters. He is like a fish out of the water, ageing and that too all by himself, even needing a dentist appointment; so much so that it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that his journey has more humanity than the humans themselves.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (English)
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle
Runtime: 115
Storyline: Godzilla and Kong have to team up once again, and this time, it’s for a new threat on unchartered territory

GxK action sequences — more on it in a while — are so grand and colossal that anything in between feel like bumps as prominent as Godzilla’s dorsal plates in the flow of events. The mother-daughter dynamic between Dr Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and the last Iwi native, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the jokes of Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) that get sidelined for a new poster boy of expositions, Trapper Beasley (Dan Stevens); most of the sequences featuring human characters rarely work. This comes as quite a shocker considering the franchise had just come out with Apple TV’sMonarch: Legacy of Monsters that focussed more on humans than the Titans and did a neat job at it.

In GxK, the makers try a lot to amalgamate the monster-sized actions and human-sized repercussions and the welded parts look anything but seamless. Kong’s canine teeth need a replacement? Oh, we have got one ready to be implanted. Did Kong’s right hand get hurt? Fret not, we have a “minor augmentation” randomly lying around — that too in Hollow Earth — that can turn his injured hand into an armoured battering-ram. Fascinatingly, despite the extremely convenient writing and sheer lack of logic, you look past it because of what it adds to the action sequences.

A still from ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’

A still from ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The film comes into its element during the CGI-fueled action scenes and when the Titans come face to face as “let them fight”, what transpires makes you almost absolve the film’s shortcomings. Be it the action stretch where Kong proves to his new friend Suko why he’s a badass, the Cairo face-off between frenemies Kong and Godzilla where the former just wanted to lure the lizard into the Hollow Earth to help him with his fight, and the final fight with Skar King and his ice-powered pet, Shimo, are visual extravaganzas that raise the bar on monster action. Throw in a bright yellow-coloured beast glove, a Godzilla that exudes a pink-hue and some exciting monster cameos, it’s like peaking into a kaleidoscope where coloured glass pieces are swapped for trigger-happy kaiju ready to make a kill every time the device gets swivelled. The money shots of the film, featuring the Titans taking it out on each other, are worth the price of admission and there are more than a couple of them in GxK.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire struggles to find a middle ground to incorporate its monster extravaganza with the humans trying to comprehend that they are no longer on top of the food chain. But monster flicks work because their fans love the prospect of monsters running around crowded metropolitans and turning them to dust, and we would have loved more of just that. With some of the best world-building we have seen in the franchise and jaw-dropping action sequences that are interrupted by redundant excuses to infuse emotion and drama, the fantastic highs and upsetting lows make GxK a forgettable spectacle.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is currently running in theatres

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