Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. A Review



I think it is fair to say that your enjoyment of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire will depend on how invested and knowledgeable you are about what I understand is called "the Monster Verse". Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is dumb and overblown. I think people who do not care to give much thought to things will enjoy it. 

King Kong remains in Hollow Earth, the world beneath our own. He suffers from a toothache that requires him to rise to the surface, where he is attended by Trapper (Dan Stevens). Also on the surface is Godzilla, who is battling against monsters for humanity's sake. 

Things grow to a crisis when Godzilla senses danger, whereupon he begins sucking up nuclear power. King Kong too faces danger when he comes upon a hereto unknown group of large apes and actual humans living on Hollow Earth. On the surface, scientist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted daughter, the native girl Jia (Kaylee Hottle) sense a disturbance. Jia, like all of her now-lost Iwa people, is especially attune to something off. 

Eventually, after fighting each other WWE style at the Pyramids of Giza, our giant frenemies must join forces against Skar King, another giant ape bent on taking out both lizard and gorilla. It is a clash of titans involving not just them, but the giant moth-like creature Mothra.

Perhaps I would have thought better of Godzilla x Kong if I either cared or understood what exactly was going on. Early on, I did ask if there was a plot in all this. It is a bit hard to take even the outlandishness seriously when you have a man in a Hawaiian shirt gleefully serve as a giant gorilla's dentist. I did ask when Trapper showed up, "who the hell is he?". 

I do not know if it is because I cannot invest the interest to follow along with the Monster Verse or because Godzilla x Kong follows in the shadow of the excellent Godzilla Minus One. However, I found there is a lot to criticize in Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett and Jeremy Slater's screenplay (based on a story by Rossio, Barrett and Adam Wingard). I mean, apart from a lack of a screenplay.

For example, I noticed that Kong always seemed to be injured in some way. I do not know why he had to be. The nadir of this, however, is when his arm is injured just when he needs it the most. What are the odds that a secret project on Hollow Earth would be to create a special mechanical arm for him to use? Actually, I might walk back that last statement. The nadir of this might actually be when Kong and Godzilla begin fighting each other in Egypt. Yes, they are both giant monsters. However, how did Godzilla get from Gibraltar to Egypt so quickly, even for him? How did he sense Kong's presence? Did Kong's roar reach all across the Mediterranean? 

When you see King Kong and Godzilla, King of the Monsters, behave as though they were the main event at WrestleMania, you wonder if you can stretch believability even in this circumstance. Godzilla x Kong doubles down on the massive destruction the people behind the film think audiences want, logic (however thin) be damned. As big as the film's visual effects were, as massive as the film's visual effects were, and as overblown as the film's visual effects were, they can't match the more effective visual effects of Godzilla Minus One. The latter won the Best Visual Effects Academy Award, the first Godzilla film to be nominated, let alone win. I doubt Godzilla x Kong will even be nominated for next year. 

Godzilla x Kong shortchanges the human actors. Except for Brian Tyree Henry as Bernie, the podcaster who was our sometimes eager, sometimes reluctant hero, I don't think anyone was even bothering to try and make any of this plausible. Stevens was having a ball amping up his character, this devil-may-care whacked-out dentist to monsters. He was the counter to Hall's more sedate scientist. 

Honestly, I cannot remember what they were like, lost in the explosions and smaller apes roaming about. Still, I do not think people go to something like Godzilla x Kong for the humans. They go in to see giant monsters go at each other. Here, however, they could not even do that. Godzilla, despite being top billed, is barely in the movie. This is more a Kong-centric film, so I do feel a bit cheated.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is more for those who maybe follow these two giants of cinema more than I or even the average person does. It is loud, overblown and pretty much with no real plot that does not require you to have more than a passing knowledge of past Monster Verse films.  

Still, it is better than Argylle

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