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Does Godzilla x Kong = The New Empire?

by Juan-Pablo Pina

A scene from "Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire." (Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures/TNS)

Since their exhilarating rumble in 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, fans of the newest Godzilla franchise (dubbed the “Monsterverse”) have been frothing at the mouth for another thunderous adventure with the greatest ape of all: Kong, and the king of the monsters: Godzilla. And three years later, on March 29, 2024, they got just that. Enter Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, a rip-roaring thrill ride starring dozens of monsters along with the mysterious realm of Hollow Earth. But…is it any good? It’s complicated. So let’s take a look at Godzilla and Kong’s latest adventure where they must rise together or fall alone.


SPOILERS AHEAD


Part I. Knowing Your Place (And Using It Well)


It’s rather common for moviegoers to overlook the human characters and keep their eyes on the monsters. I can’t blame them. However, films like 2013’s Pacific Rim and 2023’s Godzilla: Minus One have proven that human characters can have just as much depth and intrigue as the monsters’ activities. There are many examples, although the three most notable would probably be Ilene, Jia and Trapper.


Seeing Jia struggle to fit in and just naturally be different was just so touching (note that I’m also talking about the novelization by Greg Keyes that adds a lot to the story). I loved seeing how Jia’s background of growing up on Skull Island made her much more of a nature-loving person. And seeing her interact with Ilene, Jia’s adoptive mother who’s also a research specialist on Kong, reminded me of how I interact with my dad. We both love the same things and we both worry about each other, acting almost more like friends than father and son. But one of the biggest highlights is easily Jia’s relationship with the monsters like Mothra and Kong. There’s no owner-pet dynamic. It’s a symbiotic relationship that’s more emotional and practical than physical. So if Ilene and Jia are the film’s heart, then Trapper is its humor.


Without a shadow of a doubt, Trapper is the best human character of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. He’s first seen yanking an ill tooth out of Kong’s maw while a suave song plays. Dan Stevens definitely gave it his all with this role as Trapper is easily the nature-loving hipster (who just so happens to also be a kaiju veterinarian. He’s also accompanied by great music like I Got'Cha (Greenflow), I Was Made For Loving You (Kiss), Turn Me Loose (Loverboy), and Twilight Zone (Golden Earring). 


Aside from the occasional exposition dump or annoying tangent, the human characters (along with Kong) are the movie’s speaking and feeling parts that tie all the mayhem together. What’s more, they subtly know that the real stars of the show are the monsters. And the tradeoff for having such diminished human plotlines is that the monster scenes are some of the best I have ever seen in my life!


Part II. Clash of the Titans


First off, do not try and think of this as Godzilla: Minus One. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is its literal opposite. This is a movie that puts you in an IMAX seat and takes you on a wild and kaiju-sized rollercoaster with jaw-dropping visuals and sequences.

Kong is an incredibly likable character and his incredible facial expressions and understandable actions make him the movie’s star.


When I went to see the movie with my friends, we stayed silent and were simply absorbed in the moment when Kong was bonding with the juvenile ape, Suko. However, his fight scenes are so insanely savage that it’s a literal challenge to not grin like crazy. Easily a huge highlight was when he rag-dolled Suko and used him like a weapon to brutalize the other apes. Thinking about it, it made me think of the recent Planet of the Apes films and God of War games.


But this film isn’t “Kong: The New Empire” (even though it does feel like it). There’s one more name in that title. Of course, that would be none other than Godzilla. And in this movie he’s an atomic dinosaurian badass that wears the crown of “king of the monsters” very well. Almost every kaiju he squares up against is immediately humbled. His pink powerup, though sudden and a little offsetting, grants him some wild abilities like a spiral atomic breath and even a tail like that of a Stegosaurus. And he even reminds me of my cat at the end when he curls up in the Colosseum (even the king of the monsters can be a cuddly boi!).


But the synopsis promised that the big monkey and spicy iguana would be squaring off against an extinction-level threat. And it did not disappoint! Skar King is such an amazing villain that he even puts the Monsterverse’s iteration of Ghidorah to shame. He’s cruel, domineering, and so unapologetically power-hungry that it’s hard not to see him as a true threat. His enslaved bioweapon, an ancient ice titan named Shimo, perfectly gives off the classic “anguished and tormented beast” energy that’s common in media. And the score, lighting, CGI, and camerawork add to the duo’s scale and ferocity that you get a good sense of these titans' sheer apocalyptic scale.


I will say though that Mothra, the colossal and angelic insectoid peacekeeper of the monsters, is rather underutilized. It is a shame though, considering that whenever she’s on screen the score and CGI give you an amazing sense of how beautifully deadly she is. The same goes for Godzilla. His presence is felt however Kong takes up a good majority of the monster screentime. Either way, the kaiju action is so unapologetically rad that there were scenes where I was just grinning and cheering like a little kid. In the end, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is a monster movie in every sense of the phrase.


Part III. When Legends Collide…The Results May Shock You


So what of the movie as a whole? Well…


If you didn’t know, the wildness of the film’s trailer actually created a massive divide in the Godzilla fanbase with one camp saying that they preferred the more grounded and horror-based approach Godzilla: Minus One and the other saying that they preferred the wacky fun of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, with hundreds of monster fans falling somewhere in between (I personally love them both for what they are). And when the film came out, critics lambasted it. However, the audience absolutely loved it, giving ith the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of any Monsterverse film. In the end, it all comes down to your tastes.


If you like an emotional, grounded, philosophical and terrifying film that centers around the rampages of a mutant monster, then go for Godzilla: Minus One. I honestly think its one of the best Godzilla films ever made. But if you want a colorful, jaw-dropping, rollercoaster centered around kaiju, then go for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.


You don’t need to go home thinking about heavy themes or a sense of scale. It’s an adrenaline-inducing titanic joyride that just needs you to turn your brain off and let the realism-be-damned sci-fi logic take you on a wild adventure. Watch it with your friends and family and just be in the moment during the soaring Hollow Earth sequences and earth-shattering kaiju battles.

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