A Charitable Review of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

By: JJ Ledewitz  |  April 19, 2024

By JJ Ledewitz, Staff Writer

“Dialogue is for theater and television. I don’t remember movies because of a good line, I remember movies because of a strong image. I’m not interested in dialogue at all. Pure image and sound, that is the power of cinema, but it is something not obvious when you watch movies today.”

– Dennis Villeneuve, Director of Dune: Part One and Dune: Part Two

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is the fifth movie in Warner Bros.’ MonsterVerse. It serves as the sequel to 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which was the culmination of 2014’s Godzilla, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Director Adam Wingard brings Godzilla and King Kong back to the big screen, but whereas last time they fought head to head, this time they must team up to defeat a new evil emerging from Hollow Earth capable of wreaking havoc on the Earth’s surface.

The MonsterVerse centers around people affected by and working for the cryptozoological organization called Monarch. Monarch studies Titans, huge ancient creatures like Godzilla and Kong, who have become more prominent in modern times.

One thing the MonsterVerse movies are great at creating are the huge CGI monster battles filled with feats of immense destruction, and Godzilla x Kong does not disappoint in this regard. Kong’s storyline takes place mostly in the recently uncovered Hollow Earth, where he interacts with a number of new creatures like himself. Each one has their own unique design, set of mannerisms, grunts, and even fighting style, making them memorable characters. Because of all of these interactions, Kong, as well as his new lovable friend Suko, both become increasingly more compelling and intricate characters, something that most of the human characters, as well as Godzilla, just do not have. Godzilla, while front and center in the title of the movie, is pushed to the background for more than half of the runtime, going from place to place to absorb energy for a “new powerful threat.” He does not do much more than that until Kong calls upon him for help.

Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle reprise their roles from Godzilla vs. Kong as anthropological linguist Dr. Ilene Andrews and her adopted daughter, Jia, a native of the Iwi tribe. The movie tries its best to have an emotional “found family vs. true family” storyline, but unintentionally, Kong and Suko’s story is incredibly similar and more emotional – because they’ve been through so much more than Ilene and Jia. 

Brian Tyree Henry also reprises his role from Godzilla vs. Kong as conspiracy podcaster and annoying-fly-you-just-can’t-seem-to-swat-away Bernie Hayes. His character just goes along with everything that is happening while attempting to quip witty one-liners and failing miserably. The movie portrays this as funny, but it comes off as unintelligibly cringey and irritating. What makes it even worse is the debut of Dan Stevens’ Trapper, a veterinarian for Titans (huge ancient creatures like Godzilla and Kong) with three personality traits: casual, “funny,” and British. While Bernie’s lines are cringey, and at least that is something to laugh at, Trapper’s dialogue and character just isn’t interesting or entertaining, and it just ends up being embarrassing.

One great part of the movie is its aesthetic. Godzilla vs. Kong had a cool synthwave hewnstone-type palette, but this time, it changed to a neon-crystal color scheme, which repeats throughout the movie. Whenever Godzilla is charging up, we see these colors. When the humans go to Hollow Earth, we see the colors. It is a subtle detail, yet one that keeps the viewer visually awake and engaged.

There is no balance between complex emotional characters and the CGI fights with destruction, as there are no characters developed enough for the audience to connect with – except for Kong and Suko, but even then not by much.

If you are looking to watch an action filled movie with entertaining and mind-numbing CGI monster battles that contain a tremendous amount of destruction, this movie is for you. If you want to get emotional, develop an emotional attachment to characters, or even laugh at something funny, this movie is not for you.