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Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire




Rated PG-13 - for creature violence and action.
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Fala Chen, Alex Ferns, Rachel House
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: March 29, 2024

READER RATING:   


Plot Summary

Two ancient titans, Godzilla and Kong, clash in an epic battle as humans unravel their intertwined origins and connection to Skull Island's mysteries. (from IMDB)


Film Review

One week following the release of Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Warner Bros. has delivered Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. It's bizarre to have two blockbuster movies release back-to-back that have the pretention to use "Empire" in their titles, but the films are vastly different from each other. (Although, both films do contain a creature that spits ice/frost and freezes things. Go figure.) Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is the fifth film in Warner Bros./Legendary's Monsterverse, following 2021's bombastic Godzilla vs Kong. The New Empire is a direct sequel to that film, taking us back into the Hollow Earth where we find Kong at home. However, when Kong stumbles upon a new threat - a race of giant gorillas like Kong, led by a ruthless and vicious ape named Skar King - his dominion over Hollow Earth is threatened. Meanwhile, on the surface, Godzilla is springing into action against other threats, vanquishing one of them in order to evolve into a more powerful King of the Monsters. With Kong in Hollow Earth, the surface has become expressly Godzilla's domain, and the giant kaiju lizard will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire
Godzilla vs Kong (GvK) was a blast. The fight scenes were worth the price of admission alone, but the action fantasy movie suffered from the same problems all of the Warner/Legendary Godzilla films have suffered from thus far: the human story. While Rebecca Hall was an upgrade when it came to human character casting for GvK, Brian Tyree Henry virtually played a live action cartoon character -- a conspiracy theorist who was more goofy and annoying than amusing. While amazing in Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown was once again just there to attract fans of the show, and Alexander Skarsgård was bland and uninteresting as a scientist who went along for the ride. It was super fun to watch GvK in theaters - especially on the biggest screen possible - but my rewatch before The New Empire left me completely bored when the beasts weren't throwing punches at each other. The trailers for The New Empire made the film look completely ridiculous and a surefire disaster, but I accompanied my Godzilla-loving family members to an IMAX showing with an open mind regardless.

Once again, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is actually pure fun. Director Adam Wingard returns for this installment, and he seems to have his finger set firmly on the pulse of what fans are looking for. That's right; you don't go to a movie called Godzilla x Kong for the human story (Hey Paramount, the same goes for your Transformers movies!). Only Hall, Henry and the young deaf character Jia played by also-deaf actress, Kaylee Hottle, reprise their characters. While it concerned me that Brian Tyree Henry's Bernie was coming back, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he significantly dialed back his neurotic performance for the second go-around. That's not to say repeat viewings won't prove him to be a force to be irritated with, but Bernie is definitely more likeable this time... even if he's still rather goofy. Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens signs on for this installment, playing Trapper, a sort of animal specialist who has ties to Hall's character's past. Stevens goes all-out as Trapper, clearly having a blast as he gives an outrageous and memorable performance here. It seems as though Wingard realizes taking the story too seriously is a misstep, so leaning into the more silly proves to be the right approach.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire
The tone and feel of The New Empire is kind of a mix of the journey aspects of Kong: Skull Island, and the mega monster fisticuffs of GvK, the ape-centric Planet of the Apes remakes, and Pacific Rim. Knowing all of this going in helps any given viewer know what to expect. But Kong is pretty much the main character here in The New Empire. And of the three movies he's appeared in thus far (Skull Island, GvK, and this one), he's most likeable (if not lovable) in this one. Kong's given even more of a relatable human quality here, and when he encounters more giant apes within Hollow Earth, he proves his quality in relation to his peers. He's not just a foil for Godzilla this time, he's more like Caesar for the other apes. Even the "mini-Kong" in the trailers caused me to cringe each time I saw it, but his character (which is thankfully not a "mini Kong") is a surprising one. Kong's story presents the opportunities for several scenes where just beasts are trying to communicate and interact. It's definitely not the kind of horrors you'd experience with wookies communicating while watching the famously atrocious Star Wars Holiday Special, but it will certainly take some audience members by surprise. Meanwhile, Hall's Ilene leads an unfortunately small expedition into the Hollow Earth that only includes Jia, Bernie, Trapper, and one inevitably doom-fated fifth wheel. I would have loved to see a larger party of "red shirts" - AKA expendable characters - accompany Ilene's so we could see more of the dangers of Hollow Earth. (In fact, it's surprising more did not, considering how dangerous the Hollow Earth is known to be.) These scenes felt a lot like those classic monster movies where humans explore underground caves or uncharted lands, only to find monsters and creatures they never knew existed. Wingard, along with the 80's flavored movie score, again, leans into this vibe, which only lends to the movie's enjoyment. You can't expect anything more than a mindless popcorn film, and for that The New Empire delivers.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire
The content of The New Empire is probably the most mild of all of the Monsterverse films so far, with the exception of some gross-out creature gore. For example, in an early moment in the movie, Kong rips a beast in half, spilling its green blood and guts all over himself, to which we then see him wash off under a waterfall. He also experiences a toothache, and we briefly see some closeups of the infected, raw tooth. It's later extracted and replaced, but this isn't shown close-up or in graphic detail. Another brawl shows Kong besting a snake-like creature, and slicing it up into pieces. He eats straight from a dismembered section of its body, pulling out spaghetti-like entrails and eating them, with some dangling from his lips. Really... it's super gross. He then breaks off a piece to offer some to another animal. Kong's hand is sliced in one scene, and we briefly see a closeup of the cut. He's later burned there, in a way, and we see his hand discolored and raw (but it isn't really focused on). A creature is seen being frozen and then shattered to pieces, while another character is killed by being kicked into a lava pit. There's also a brief moment where the camera pans by some ape heads decapitated and mounted on stakes. While a human is quickly devoured by a creature in Hollow Earth, it isn't graphic, and it's kind of played for shock and laughs. Profanity is more infrequent than the other films, with about 4 uses of the "S" word (all from Hall, except one from Stevens), and some exclamations of "G-d" are used, as well as a couple other cuss words scattered about. Aside from the gross-out moments, and some menacing monster moments, Wingard seems to have the kids more in mind this time, which is a nice change of pace.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is certainly a lot of fun, but after seeing the brilliance that was last year's Godzilla: Minus One, this movie feels like a bag of Sour Patch Kids being brought to the table as dessert at an upscale banquet. That's not to say those fruity jelly candies aren't delightful and delicious; it's just a high contrast between the two kinds of movies. The 2023 film even won an Academy Award this year for its visual effects. I'd say the longevity of The New Empire will only be revealed by repeat viewings, but as for its one-time IMAX experience, I can say with certainty that, for what it is, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire was an enjoyable and fun time at the movies.

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 3/31/24)

 

 

Parental Guide: Content Summary


. Sex/Nudity: None. Women are seen on a beach in bikinis.
. Vulgarity/Language: 4 "S" words, 1 "a" word, 4 "h*ll," 2 "d*mn," 8 "Oh my G-d," 2 "Oh G-d," 1 "G-d," 1 "p*ssed off"
. Alcohol/Drugs: None.
. Blood/Gore: Kong rips a beast in half over his head, spilling its green blood and guts over his body. He then washes it all off in a waterfall; We see a beast get impaled on a spikey rock at the bottom of a pit; We see a close-up of Kong's tender, infected front tooth a couple of times; Kong's palm is cut and we briefly see the bloody slice on his hand; A snake like creature is sliced up into many pieces with lots of green blood. We then see Kong eating straight from a dismembered section of its body, pulling out spaghetti like entrails and eating them, with some dangling from his lips; A monster is frozen solid and shattered into pieces on the ground; During a fight, a beast spits one of its teeth out and we see it land in the street; Godzilla blasts a monster with his atomic breath, dismembering it into bloody green pieces; The camera pans by some ape heads decapitated and mounted on stakes.
. Violence: Lots of creature violence; Kong is chased by a pack of jaguar-like beasts inside Hollow Earth. He surprises them by leading them to a trap he set, and some fall inside a pit, with one being impaled on a sharp rock below. When he's cornered, he takes a beast in his hands, raises it over his head, and tears it in two, spilling its green blood all over him; Godzilla is scene fighting a giant crab-like creature; A small ape bites Kong's hand; Some apes attack Kong, he fights back. One of them slices his hand. When an ape dangles off the side of a cliff, Kong helps him up. He then attacks Kong, leading Kong to then kick the ape off the cliff; We see a group of apes enslaved and oppressed under Skar's rule. We also see three or so decapitated ape heads on stakes to intimidate the other apes. Skar kicks a kind ape into a lava pit, killing it. Kong and Skar King fight, with Kong receiving a wounded hand and other injuries; Godzilla causes some destruction in a city; Godzilla fights an snake-like dragon-like beast which tries to wrap itself around Godzilla. We then see his atomic breath shoot out of the water and pieces of the creature floating to the surface; Kong comes to the surface to recruit Godzilla's help, but Godzilla immediately wants to fight Kong. The two duke it out, including Kong trying to drag him by the tail to the Hollow Earth portal, but Godzilla breaks free and retaliates; A gigantic tree swallows and eats a human man (not gross); The apes go to attack Kong and his allies, but a group of flying creatures are brought to the fight to help. Kong, Skar, an ice beast, and Godzilla all fight each other, taking the brawl to the surface in Brazil; A monster is frozen and then smashed to pieces; A lot of building and city destruction occurs in Brazil; And other monster-related action/violence.

 

Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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