Review | Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire | 2024

(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.

Legendary's Godzilla franchise continues its delve into Shōwa-era silliness in Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, the second mashup between the two titans after 2021's Godzilla vs. Kong. This time, the two immortal cinematic monsters are pitted against a new threat stemming from the depths of Kong's uncharted new domain in Hollow Earth, where an ancient evil is ready to emerge and lay waste to the surface world. 

There's something agreeably silly about the premise, credit where credit is due to Legendary for allowing this series to stray from its more serious roots in 2014's Godzilla into the kind of sci-fi weirdness that dominated the latter half of the original run of Toho's Godzilla films that lasted from 1954-1975. Unfortunately, their American counterparts haven't quite gotten the knack of it yet (2019's Godzilla King of the Monsters came closest), because Godzilla X Kong has outlandish plot points to spare, but it spends so much time explaining them that it almost forgets why we're there in the first place - to watch giant monsters beat the shit out of each other.

Sure, if it's kaiju action you're looking for, The New Empire has it - and lots of it. But its determination to explain its weirder elements takes away any sense of wonder or mystery. Poor Rebecca Hall is essentially wasted as an exposition machine, saddled with pages of laboriously expository dialogue that makes sure the audience understands the whys and wherefores of every single detail of its convoluted plot. What it misunderstands about those Shōwa era films (and the darker Heisei era films, whose neon city-scape battles it also emulates) is that the plots of these films don't really matter. Everyone is here to see giant monsters duke it out, and attempts to complicate that with intricate mythology to make it somehow more plausible feels like a shallow distraction from the main event.

In the case of Godzilla X Kong, that mythology feels confusing at best and irrelevant at worst. There are some fun monster battles to be had here, and the reappearance of Mothra is a welcome surprise after she was essentially wasted in King of the Monsters (even if it still doesn't really seem like the American films know what to do with her), but the film feels painfully bloated. It also has the unfortunate position of being released just three months after Toho's Oscar-winning Godzilla Minus One. And while these are clearly two different films with two very different aims, it's almost impossible not to look at the Japanese film and think that Toto is doing this better than their American counterparts. This may be a more lighthearted adventure than the more somber Minus One, but Godzilla X Kong feels buried under the weight of its own mythology, at once over-explained and undercooked.

GRADE - ★★ (out of four)

GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE | Directed by Adam Wingard | Stars Rebecca Hall, Kaylee Hottle, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens | Rated PG-13 for creature violence and action | Now playing in theaters everywhere.


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