Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (Movie) Review

Ned Jordan
In Short
Godzilla and Kong deserve better than this.
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

I had the chance to catch an advance screening of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire at the IMAX headquarters in Playa Vista, CA. It was thanks to the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III team, who used one of the theaters at IMAX HQ to debut some Season 3 trailers and to show off some gameplay on the huge screen featuring the Kong skin that will be available in the new season.

I grew up watching the classic Godzilla movies and have always had an affinity for the old kaiju, so I was looking forward to sticking around once the Call of Duty event segued into a Godzilla x Kong event. Being fully aware of Hollywood’s recent track record with films of this type, I didn’t have high expectations for the movie. Unfortunately, Godzilla x Kong couldn’t even reach that low bar.

As the movie opens Kong is living in Hollow Earth, a verdant sunlit paradise beneath the Earth’s surface. We’ll get to suspension of disbelief shortly. He spends his time looking for other Kongs and building elaborate traps to kill any non-Kongs that get in his way. Meanwhile, on Earth’s surface Godzilla is protecting humanity from any giant monster that shows up by flattening whatever city it dares to attack. This idyllic existence is unfortunately interrupted when mysterious signals begin to be sent from somewhere in Hollow Earth. The signals cause Godzilla to set out to absorb all of the radiation that he can find, even if he has to cannibalize a few other kaiju in the process. Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last surviving member of Skull Island’s Iwi tribe and a mute monster empath, recognizes the signal as a distress call. Her adoptive mother, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), some sort of monster scientist who works for some sort of monster agency that doesn’t require her to do any kind of actual work. She decides to head down to Hollow Earth to see what’s going on, bringing with her Kaiju veterinarian Trapper (Dan Stevens), a character who channels Ace Ventura to the point that one of the other characters calls him out on it, and conspiracy theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), who runs a blog trying to convince people that Kaiju are real despite the fact that the nightly news reports on the daily movements of Godzilla. Together they will try to figure out why the signal was sent, who sent it, and what Kong and Godzilla are supposed to do about it.

Or not. There’s actually very little for the human characters to do in this movie. They are there primarily to explain the razor-thin plot to the audience and to trigger the endless stream of ever more ridiculous deus ex machina that are used to glue the monster fights together. The exposition reaches its apex of ludicrousness when the humans discover an ancient temple in Hollow Earth covered in carvings that Dr. Andrews can read as if its her native tongue. She walks around the walls of the temple, telling the audience the reasons behind everything that has happened so far, as well as giving a synopsis of the plot for the rest of the movie.

Now back to the suspension of disbelief. I can sit back and enjoy a movie that takes place in a world in which giant monsters exist, and not get too hung up on the stretches in plausibility that violate the scientific laws of our universe. However, there are few movies outside the realm of pulp and 50s B-movies that exist in a bubble free from any kind of tether to reality. This is a movie in which Godzilla can swim from Gibraltar to the arctic in a matter of hours, trailed by a submarine that uses radar instead of sonar, in which a tribe of Stone Age people manipulates gravity by mixing different liquids together, and that travel between Earth and Hollow Earth is accomplished by jumping down a hole and popping up the other side no matter which direction you’re traveling in. And then there are those endless deus ex machinas. Notice that bionic hand that Kong has in the posters for the movie. Yeah, that was just left at an outpost that was destroyed by something that is never revealed in the film. Not only that, it just so happens to fit the hand that Kong injured, there was a transport ship untouched in the unexplained attack, the Ace Ventura vet knows how to fly heavy lifter aircraft, and the bionic arm installs itself if you just drop it next to Kong. Honestly, my eyes hurt after having to do so much rolling in a two-hour period.

OK, so the story is garbage, even by monster movie standards. What about the monster fights? Well, if you’re looking for quantity over quality, you’ll be happy. Otherwise, I have to say that the CGI in this film is pretty disappointing. The special effects look like effects, and the fight choreography is unimaginative. And then there is the issue with the wanton loss of human life at the hands of the movie’s heroes. Watching Godzilla “protect” humanity by flinging monsters into high-rise buildings and then smashing his way through bridges filled with traffic after he’s done left me wondering how the people in the film’s world could so casually dismiss the collateral damage of having Godzilla as a guardian.

Take it from a monster movie fan, this movie is terrible in every sense. The plot is embarrassing, even for a genre not known for its screenwriting, and the one thing the film should absolutely nail, the monster fights, are boring and feature sub-par effects. There’s a reason why what would normally be considered a summer movie was released in the Easter weekend dead zone. I’d say wait for the movie to be released on a streaming service, which will likely happen very soon, but frankly it’s not worth your time, even for free.

Final Rating: starstarno starno starno star

Transmitted: 7/18/2024 5:19:16 AM