Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Review

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It seems like only yesterday that audiences were getting hyped to see Bryan Cranston go up against Godzilla. Of course, Cranston ended up only being in the first act. Oh, and the MonsterVerse’s first Godzilla movie didn’t come out yesterday. That was 10 years ago. You can take a moment to reflect on how old you’ve gotten before reading through the rest of this review. While 2014’s Godzilla wasn’t perfect, the bar had been set fairly low. All it needed to do was be better than the Matthew Broderick version, and audiences would be satisfied enough. The bar has been raised since then, largely thanks to Godzilla Minus One.

A crossover hit between Eastern and Western audiences, Minus One became the franchise’s first entry to win an Academy Award. Beyond the revolutionary effects, Minus One opened our eyes to how haunting, thrilling, and powerful a Godzilla film can be. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire doesn’t deliver an emotional gut punch, although to be fair, it doesn’t have to. While kaiju movies can be more than large-scale set pieces, colorful action is still a major selling point.  Godzilla x Kong serves up the heart-pounding showdowns and awe-inspiring Titans we paid to see, even if the title is a little misleading.

Yes, Godzilla is here. Yes, King Kong is here. It’s not a Kong AND Godzilla movie, however. Despite getting top-billing, Godzilla is the second banana this time. The film is truly about Kong’s search for a place in this world, seemingly being the last of his kind. Every day in Hollow Earth is a battle. Kong isn’t losing his touch in his old age, but victory feels empty when you have nobody to share it with. Kong finds purpose when he discovers a colony of fellow giant apes, taking a “Mini Kong” under his wing. With the other apes at the mercy of the callous ruler, Kong must live up to his title as King. Taking a page from the recent Planet of the Apes movies, director Adam Wingard lets the visuals do the talking with expressive CGI artistry.

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So, where’s Godzilla while all of this is happening? He’s… taking a nap in the Roman Colosseum, which is admittedly an awesome image. What’s not as awesome is watching Godzilla gradually drag himself from Rome to Egypt where he finally reteams with Kong for the climax. To an extent, Godzilla is to this movie what Bryan Cranston was to the 2014 film. Prominently featured in the trailers, but not as much screen time as expected. While the film delivers when the titular Titans do reunite for the signature showdown, this is a Kong movie at its core with Godzilla feeling more like a guest star.

There are some humans as well, although they’re thankfully downplayed this time. The MonsterVerse has given us some involving human characters in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, which remains this franchise’s best outing. In Godzilla x Kong, though, Rebecca Hall is just here to dump exposition, Brian Tyree Henry is here to make jokes that aren’t especially funny, Dan Stevens is… here too and seems to be having fun. Kaylee Hottle’s Jia is the film’s most interesting human, but that’s mainly due to her connection to the monsters, who are the real stars. The filmmakers understand this with Kong carrying much of the picture. Even if it’s not the best Godzilla movie of recent years, it may be the best Kong movie since Peter Jackson’s remake.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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