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Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire | Review of Adam Wingard’s Film

The film is the fifth feature in the MonsterVerse, bringing the two most iconic titans of cinema back to the big screen

If it’s true that cinema needs grand events, what event could be bigger than Godzilla and King Kong together in the same film? The two had already met and clashed in Godzilla vs. Kong in 2021, but in the new chapter of Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, they team up against a threat from the past. Thus, the film is an opportunity to see the two most iconic and beloved titans of cinema on the big screen again, once more directed by Adam Wingard, a director who made his mark in the horror genre (You’re Next, Blair Witch) and moved to blockbusters with the two films dedicated to the monsters.

Whereas the previous film was based on their clash, this new chapter focuses instead on their collaboration, delving further into their origins. The MonsterVerse seems to be moving towards revealing the mythical battle that helped shape these extraordinary beings and forever bound them to humanity. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire doesn’t add much to the mythology so far, hindered by a rather weak script. However, the focus for a film of this type is understandably more on breathtaking fights and stunning special effects than on the solidity of the story. On this front, the film does not disappoint.

The Plot of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

The film re-establishes the balance at the end of the previous film. Kong reigns supreme in the Hollow Earth, an untouched place located at the heart of the Earth, while Godzilla watches over the surface. As long as each stays in their territory, peace seems assured. But it is from the Hollow Earth that mysterious calls for help suddenly begin to arrive, awakening Godzilla and heralding the arrival of a terrifying threat. In an attempt to discover what is happening, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) ventures with a team of experts into the heart of the Hollow Earth, seeking answers along with Kong himself.

The Evolution of the MonsterVerse Compared to cinematic universes like the MCU, the DCU, and other successful franchises like the Conjuring Universe, the MonsterVerse seems to receive even less consideration than it deserves. Over a decade, since Godzilla in 2014, it has managed to bring to the big screen four feature films that are far from perfect but have the merit of providing great entertainment by making the most of the charm of its monster protagonists. Over time, the MonsterVerse has built an exciting mythology on them, further solidified by the highly appreciated TV series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.

Now that the two main titans of this shared universe have finally met on the big screen, the MonsterVerse is evidently at a crossroads. Ideally, this would be the point to show that there is a goal to be achieved with these works, whether it’s revealing the origin of these creatures or building an evolution in their role as protectors of the Earth. In short, will Godzilla and Kong reach a climax like the Avengers did in protecting the universe from Thanos, or will they simply continue to clash endlessly with the monster of the moment? Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire does not provide an answer to this question, effectively not adding much to the narrative and mythology of the MonsterVerse.

There is still time for this, and for now, the most serious lack appears to be the absence of an evolution – within the limits of possibility – in the relationship between the two titans. Godzilla and Kong meet for too little time, and when they do, little to nothing seems to have changed from the battle of the previous film, where they recognized each other as protectors of the planet. Sure, they are two creatures driven primarily by instinct, and no one expects to see them sharing the scene like buddies, but it wouldn’t hurt to give them a bit more personality that allows them to interact in new ways.

Godzilla and Kong’s Roar Overshadows Everything

We know that if Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire achieves good results at the box office, a third film dedicated to the two titans will be made. That might be the opportunity to provide these additional elements, but for now, this lack of evolution might be cited as the film’s biggest flaw, even more so than the numerous gaps in its screenplay. Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, and Jeremy Slater, authors of the latter, put together a chain of events that are particularly forced in their consequentiality. There’s a certain laziness in how certain events simply happen because they are convenient for what must follow them, creating particularly strong inconsistencies.

But, as already mentioned, it’s unlikely that one would choose to watch a film of this type expecting a particularly solid screenplay. This should not, of course, be an excuse to rely on such a thin narrative structure, but it can be confidently stated that when the physical confrontations between the titans begin, the viewer’s attention will be completely focused on the screen. The second hour of the film indeed manages to recover from a less incisive first part, offering special effects that meet expectations, immersive sound, journeys to particularly fascinating places, and, of course, the presence of the two colossal protagonists, who always possess undeniable charisma.

The enthusiasm for the film thus grows as the viewing progresses, leading to an explosive final sequence that unfolds in multiple environments and allows for a level of destruction with few equals, reminding us why films with colossal monsters duking it out always have their charm. Fortunately, in all this, the film proves never to take itself too seriously, thus allowing to overlook even its less convincing aspects. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire indeed focuses on delivering what one would expect from a film of this type, and that’s enough (for now).

Gianmaria Cataldo

Cinefilos, March 27, 2024

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