Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire review – The biggest, dumbest fun

The Legendary MonsterVerse is arguably the most successful cinematic universe behind the MCU and, as we tie up the first quarter of 2024, we have another entry in the franchise. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, apart from sounding like a collaborative clothing brand or a Fortnite-esque crossover, continues the tradition of smashing the big lizard and the big monke together after Godzilla vs. Kong in 2021.

Instead of painting it like an all out brawl between the two, The New Empire has a clear target for the pair in an antagonist called Skar King.

Not only is Skar King another great ape titan (King Kong was thought to be on the only one of this species left), but he also seems to represent some greater threat than a primate with a bone whip as both King Kong and Godzilla seem to be powered up to fight him.

That’s why Godzilla is pink now and King Kong has a metal gauntlet. Oh and there’s also a “Baby Kong” too.

We won’t talk much more about the setting and the plot for two reasons: we don’t do spoilers in our reviews and, well, it doesn’t matter that much. As long as Titans are bashing each other the plot is not just taking a back seat, but it could be shoved in the boot.

We will say that we like where the MonsterVerse is at the beginning of this movie. Titans are an unfortunate part of everyday life and there’s a unique equilibrium where Godzilla rules the surface world and King Kong has the Hollow Earth that was revealed in our movies.

It feels less like our world with one or two Titans in it, and instead like an entirely different universe chock full of giant monsters.

This gives The New Empire a uniquely captivating air where you want to see more of how this world works, both for the human characters and the Titans. Speaking of the humans there has been constant debate of these movies ever since Godzilla (2014) around just how much time we should spend with regular people. The prevailing thought seems to be that the human stuff is filler and we just want to get back to the Titans.

Well The New Empire pulls a real curveball on us because you do spend more time with the Titans, but much of that is Kong discovering the other apes. It’s hilarious that large chunks of this movie are these building-sized monkeys beating their chests, roaring and doing animal stuff but, you know, bigger.

But this isn’t really better. It’s still filler material between fights but now instead of humans we have CGI apes.

No matter your preference to filling the time between set pieces, The New Empire definitely has a pacing issue. Certain scenes drag on for ages as you just want them to end, while other interesting sections are blown through in record time. The script needed a rewrite or the film needed one more edit before things could be called complete because this movie is more than a bit disjointed in how it uses its time.

The cast here sees some returning characters from past MonsterVerse outings joined by newcomers. Most notable is Rebecca Hall as Doctor Illene Andrews who really carries this movie on her back. She’s the most likable character by a huge margin and we’re incredibly grateful that she’s the human character we spend the most time with overall.

Also good is Dan Stevens as the “Titan vet” character Trapper who plays the “I wear a Hawaiian shirt and nothing phases me, man” archetype, but does it so well and so naturally that we can’t complain.

The rest of the cast is either not worth mentioning or outwardly annoying. We can see Jia (played by Kaylee Hottle) and Bernie Hayes (played by Brian Tyree Henry) being picked up by viewers as characters they dislike. We really wish Hayes’ character was not brought back for this movie as his character does next to nothing for the plot and exists mainly to look at stuff happening and shout “oh my God!”.

Opposite the humans is the CGI fest of Titans and The New Empire looks good for a production that relies so heavily on unreality. We spend a large potion of the movie with King Kong and the artists have given him more human facial expressions which were needed for those long dialogue-less monster scenes we mentioned earlier. The detail on the Titans is impeccable as you can see endless small features both for their own sake and the sake of the story, such as the fact that King Kong is noticeably older and with a lot of grey fur.

Our biggest problem with The New Empire is the scale of things. Say what you want about Godzilla (2014) and how you barely actually see Godzilla, but that movie understood how to make these giant monsters feel like giant monsters. The New Empire, at almost all times, utterly fails at making you believe that these Titans tower over skyscrapers. This is particularly hilarious when there are literally skyscrapers in the frame and these monsters are tearing into them.

The best way to think of this is from the angle of an old That Mitchell and Webb Look skit that lambastes soccer. “The giants of Charlton play host to the titans of Ipswich, making them both seem normal size”. When everything in The New Empire is huge, nothing is. This is a bit of an unavoidable problem for the MonsterVerse: you need more monsters in your universe but every one you add brings down the overall specialness of a giant monster.

We still think more could have been done, and should have been done, to sell these apocalyptically large brawls as the world-ending spectacles they are, but we will say that the CGI managed to hold up for the most part which can’t also be said for these projects that rely so heavily on effects.

Speaking of problems with Hollywood we always have to address the audio levels. In recent years the audio levelling in big movies has become simply deplorable with most spoken words being inaudible and the action being too loud. While the spoken work in The New Empire is just fine to our ears, the filmmakers ironically didn’t crank it high enough where it matters.

There are several times where a Titan would roar or some Earth-shattering event would happen and the audio simply didn’t sell that. This is particularly disappointing in IMAX where the seat-shaking audio is a major selling point and reason to pay the extra money. We saw The New Empire in 3D IMAX and much of the IMAX advertising points out that the movie was filed for it. While that may be true for the visuals the audio definitely needs an upgrade.

We can’t help but think of seeing Dune: Part Two in 2D IMAX recently which some people found too loud, but at least that movie kicked you in the chest with sound when it mattered.

Lastly on the audio side this movie really has a do nothing soundtrack. If there is an original score here, you could have fooled us, and the licenced songs are so meaningless and haphazard that you wouldn’t miss them if they were removed.

With all of this in our minds leaving the theatre, the Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire comes across as a bit of a jumble. It does – mostly – deliver on its promise for another solid entry in the MonsterVerse and a continuation of this series, but the failures on selling scale really harm the excitement of its big moments.

There is a lot of fun to be had here and we can definitely see many moviegoers simply forgiving or glossing over our problems because of it. The problem is that The New Empire promised so much and, if this is the last movie in the MonsterVerse, it didn’t deliver enough to be completely satisfying.

Think about this movie like this: you’ve been crazing McDonald’s for ages now. You know it isn’t the best thing out there, but when that what you want, nothing else hits the spot. You order and get home ready to tuck in and halfway through the meal you discover they forgot your chips and now it’s too late to go and get them. The food is still satisfying and you get that fix you’ve been craving, but it could have been better.



About Author


Related News