Directed by: Adam Wingard
Written by: Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, Jeremy Slater, Adam Wingard
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, Fala Chen
Released: March 28, 2024
Grade: C+

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

For several (largely financial) reasons, movie studios have developed an attachment to certain fictional characters.  Some are animated like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, some are human like James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, and some are grotesque creatures like Dracula and Frankenstein.  A long list of films and television shows have been centred around these folk.  Gotta stick with what works, right?

Godzilla and King Kong have the same history.  Wikipedia states there have been 38 Godzilla films since the original in 1954, and 13 King Kong flicks since his famed debut in 1933.  The two monsters were brought together for a Japanese feature in 1962 but it wasn’t until three years ago that they faced off in a major Hollywood movie – the obviously titled Godzilla v Kong.  The total box-office take of $470 million USD proved there’s still interest in their misadventures.

Director Adam Wingard is back for the next instalment, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, and for the most part, the characters are kept separate.  Godzilla is battling monstrous reptiles in Europe while Kong has gone in search of his family in the recently discovered Hollow Earth (a rainforest-like world beneath the Earth’s surface).  The humans, headlined by returning stars Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Brian Tyree Henry (Causeway), don’t have much to do.  They’re keeping a close eye on the two creatures to make sure nothing “really” bad happens.  Note: Something really bad does happen.

I could cut and paste my review notes from the 2021 movie, and you wouldn’t know the difference.  I didn’t like that film for the same reasons as this one.  The visual effects are terrific, and the monster battles are cool to watch… but the rest is underwhelming.  The human characters are a boring bunch who magically solve any problem (spouting a bunch of technical jargon) in a matter of seconds.  Further, the ongoing destruction of major cities across the globe is treated as an unnecessary triviality.  What was the death toll?  Why does no one seem to care?

The film’s biggest problem is tone.  There are moments where characters are pushing for laughs as if in a contest to see who can come up the funniest reference about a particular situation.  Minutes later, the film is asking us to feel emotion and compassion for subplots like a displaced tribe, or a mum trying to connect with her adopted daughter.  I’d have preferred the writing team to go with a full action-comedy approach like last year’s sleeper hit, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves.

Given the similarities of approach, I can say if you liked Godzilla v Kong you’re probably going to like this too.  The converse also applies.  Shot at Village Roadshow Studios here on the Gold Coast, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire safely keeps the franchise kicking along but lacks a memorable “wow” factor to get people talking.