In Review: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Review by Tim Robins


The epic battle continues! Legendary Pictures’ cinematic Monsterverse follows up the explosive showdown of “Godzilla vs. Kong” with an all-new adventure that pits the almighty Kong and the fearsome Godzilla against a colossal undiscovered threat hidden within our world, challenging their very existence – and our own. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” delves further into the histories of these Titans and their origins, as well as the mysteries of Skull Island and beyond, while uncovering the mythic battle that helped forge these extraordinary beings and tied them to humankind forever.

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024)

Keeping track of the Kaiju universe is beginning to feel like a maths test: what is Godzilla X Kong + Godzilla Minus One? The answer is: 115 minutes of a whole lot of fun and excitement at the cinema. Much more than I was expecting.

By a process of trial and error, the people behind Kong: Skull Island have finally created the first ‘monsterverse’ film to really capture the spirit of Toho’s popular, but mostly bonkers, movies. Cue Godzilla rampaging across the world and chowing down on nuclear power plants, and other Kaiju, in order to power himself up for some as yet unspecified battle to come.

This is accompanied by endearingly on-the-nose expository dialogue, “If Godzilla takes down Tiamat, he’ll supercharge.” In this movie, little is left unexplained, either through dialogue: “He’s gone into Tiamat’s lair!”, or on-screen captions – or both.

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024)

There are enough on-screen captions to fill an entire season of Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who. But here, the captions actually work to give a sense of globe-trotting adventure, not least because the settings contribute to a real sense of scale and excitement. Godzilla has made his home in Rome, Italy – there goes the neighbourhood (and quite a bit of ancient Roman history trampled underfoot).

Meanwhile, Kong is swaggering around the Hollow Earth. I honestly thought this region was, in the film, some kind of extra dimensional realm, but I can’t find support for this. And, if comments on the National Geographic Facebook group are anything to go by, there are still those who believe the recent eclipse was a hoax, so I guess many in today’s audience will swallow Hollow Earth hokum whole.

Kong’s kingly posturing is brought up short by a painful tooth, so the monster monitoring Monarch organisation extracts him up to the surface, for a much-needed trip to the dentist. The film takes all this in its stride, although I started getting flashbacks to Kong getting a heart transplant in King Kong Lives (1986). I expect the tooth pulling wasn’t too gruesome, so as not to frighten the kids away from going to the dentist and parents can use the movie as a useful reminder to their children to brush their teeth thoroughly, no excuses!

Godzilla x Kong also has a human cast who don’t get in the way of the action but do provide an involving sense of adventure. Jia (Kaylee Hottle), is apparently the last surviving member of the Iwi tribe from Skull Island. Unfortunately, Hollywood still can’t shake its fundamentally racist representation of “indigenous people”, even beneath the Earth. Jia is the native equivalent of the “magical negro” trope – supernaturally in touch with the Hollow Earth, via troubling visions.

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024)

The film only narrowly avoids the trope of African-American as bumbling comic relief in the figure of Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), a podcaster and conspiracy theorist who blags his way to a trip to Hollow Earth with Jia and members of Monarch, including Jia’s adoptive mum, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebbeca Hall). But, otherwise, the entire cast do a sterling job selling the plot’s absurdities, of which there are a great many.

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024)
Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024)

There’s a whole separation anxiety drama between Dr. Andrews and Jia that felt all too believable. Elsewhere, the film displays a casual disregard for human life, whether it be the life of a colleague who is eaten by a tree or thousands who die as the Titan adversaries throw entire buildings at each other in the Rio de Janeiro finale.

The CGI is top-notch. The care taken animating Kong’s fur and facial expressions allow him to develop into a genuinely relatable  character.  The detailing really pays off when Kong meets Suko, a diminutive, orange furred “mini-me”. Suko really, really doesn’t want to become Kong’s sidekick, and even leads Kong into a death trap or two, before teaming up with him to defeat the horrible Skar. Kong and Suko never feel like cartoons and, over the course of the film, become a touching double act.

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024)

Godzilla is on top form as a rampaging reptile throbbing with purple energy, lolloping around and plunging into the sea. Spoilers – there is a suprise guest appearance by Mothra. Again, the confident script manages a nod to her Toho appearances, with worshippers to boot. The plot contrives to bring the hero Titans together to defend the world against Skar’s slave-kingdom in a free for all that leaves Skar and his gang of brutes looking decidedly moth eaten.

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024)

I did feel my mind wander during the convoluted explanations of how the Hollow Earth tribes folk use giant crystal formations to manipulate gravity, but the landscapes are nothing less than captivating. By the end, even the youngsters in the audience began to tire. There’s nothing particularly cerebral going on here, but I’d still recommend the movie particularly if you want to keep your family’s own little monkeys quiet for an afternoon.

Tim Robins

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is in cinema across the UK now |

Godzilla x Kong The New Empire Collection – AmazonUK Affiliate Link

Categories: Features, Film, Other Worlds, Reviews

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