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Film Review: GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE (2024): A Well-Crafted Creature Feature That Needs More Screen Time with the Humans

Godzilla Kong The New Empire

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Review

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024) Film Review, a movie directed by Adam Wingard, written by Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett and Jeremy Slater and starring Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, Fala Chen, Rachel House, Rom Smyck, Chantelle Jamieson, Greg Hatton, Kevin Copeland, Tess Dobre, Tim Carroll, Anthony Brandon Wong, Sophia Emberson-Bain and Vincent B. Gorce.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire takes on a challenge that it simply should not have to. Directed by Adam Wingard, this new sequel spends a lot of time on a multiverse of sorts full of gorillas and lizards (or whatever Godzilla is). However, this film features a cast that includes the terrific Rebecca Hall, the fine Brian Tyree Henry and the impressive Dan Stevens so the movie begs the question: Why not use the human performers to their full advantage rather than showcase a movie with many different creatures that is almost chock full of wall-to-wall visual effects? It’s a tale as old as time. First-rate performers get utilized in a movie which is unworthy of their skill sets. However, there are a lot of bold risks that Godzilla x King: The New Empire takes on even if the movie only works from time to time.

Rebecca Hall stars in the movie as Ilene Andrews who has an adopted daughter named Jia (Kaylee Hottle). Nothing brings a family closer together than saving the world from the evil Scar King gorilla. Also on the mission to keep things safer for society are Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), a guy who runs a podcast, and Ilene’s ex-boyfriend and veterinarian, Trapper (Dan Stevens). Though one may want this movie to be mostly about them, it is not. Henry’s hilarious sense of humor is lost in the shuffle in a movie more focused on action scenes and CGI. Hall gets pigeonholed into the “mom who doesn’t understand her daughter” role and although Dan Stevens is OK here, he has nothing really substantial to work with. Hottle is the most impressive star of the movie as her character comes to terms with her inner self as the course of the movie continues to play out.

Instead of the humans, Godzilla, King Kong and Mothra are some of the central characters here. The movie shifts to different locations and, once in a while, back and forth between time periods. There is a cute little gorilla mixed into the action here and there and Kong gets his hand injured but the personalities of the monsters are not developed much beyond good vs. evil. There are times where monsters ridicule other monsters and Scar King is a real S.O.B. but the overall development of the plot is, at times, sluggish.

This movie is also kind of brave in taking on exhibitions of the monsters more than the humans. Ilene and Jia have a bond that will be tested by the events of the movie but the film adds the results of the development of the relationship as a tacked-on happy ending rather than as a pivotal plot point within the picture. There are a lot of clever touches in the movie. For example, when Bernie gets to go on the mission to the Hollow Earth with Ilene and the crew, he hops onto an aircraft in which the pilot warns him not to touch any of the buttons in it or else they’ll all perish. Scenes like this are funny. Bernie also wants to post videos of things that Ilene warns him not to. It’s all quite entertaining when we get moments like this but the movie is too wrapped up in the monsters fighting one another to keep the development of the humans up to par.

The joining of King Kong and Godzilla on-screen does make for some nifty special effects that enhance the movie’s entertainment value even though these monsters feel like they exist just for the action sequences rather than for a greater purpose. The introduction of a new ice age, though, ended up being a pretty intriguing concept and makes for some cool moments within an otherwise typical creature feature.

The last picture before this one, Godzilla vs. Kong, was a much better movie. That does not mean Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire doesn’t have anything compelling to offer viewers. It does deliver in the special effects department with expressive gorillas and lizards, etc. The Skar King is appropriately menacing and King Kong is a reliable, aging, hero who is juxtaposed against that much younger gorilla who seems more enthusiastic about confrontational battles than the worn down Kong. Godzilla is under-utilized, to be sure, though. The movie gives so much backstory on the gorillas that I was wondering if Godzilla was even going to be a key player here. Luckily, Godzilla does come into key points of the action with a vengeance when the plot requires it. 

Though Hall, Henry and Stevens try hard to make their characters feel substantial, the movie ultimately relies on heart-tugging emotions at the last minute to develop their characters. That leaves Kaylee Hottle to steal the movie from the other principal performers here. Jia is a character who the audience will most likely relate to even if one wishes she had more screen time or at least as much as Kong and the other monsters did.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire will probably have a follow-up movie to it. This new picture delivers the goods when it comes to stomping action with the monsters all doing their thing like they’re in a wrestling match. Sometimes, humans can help movies like this one feel more interesting so the best advice to the filmmakers for the next film would be to evenly distribute the screen time between the humans and the monsters. But, then I remember when the original Jurassic Park came out, some people complained there were too many humans and not enough dinosaurs. You can’t win, I suppose. Nor can you please everyone.

Rating: 6/10

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