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March 29, 2024 / Warner Bros. Pictures Canada

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns

Directed By: Adam Wingard

The almighty Kong and the fearsome Godzilla are pitted against a colossal undiscovered threat hidden within our world, challenging their very existence—and our own.

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating 3 out of 5

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire unleashes monster mayhem galore that will satisfy any fan wanting a bombastic and fun big screen outing that focuses on the titular titans that slightly course corrects previous entries in the MonsterVerse which were too bogged down by its human counterparts, but is narratively too scattered to be a great entry to the series.

It’s been an exciting few months for Godzilla fans, with multiple projects featuring one of cinema’s most iconic monsters being released, two of which within Warner Brother’s MonsterVerse. The MonsterVerse over the course of the three films built towards the big screen showdown between Godzilla and King Kong, which resulted in 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which while it did not have as much monster brawling as one would expect, delivered the exciting throwdown between two of cinema’s most infamous monsters. While the last two entries in the MonsterVerse both played out on the small screen with Netflix’s animated series Skull Island and Apple TV+’s Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the titans are now returning back to where they always belonged: the big screen. Even if the film does not have the narrative strength of some of the previous entries in the series, the overall experience of seeing Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is big, loud, exciting, and most importantly fun, which is everything you could hope from a film that features giant monsters fighting each other.

For MonsterVerse films after the first two films, which were smaller in scale as to what they were trying to accomplish, the story has been each film’s weakest point and that trend continues with Godzilla v Kong: The New Empire. On the one hand, this film takes a step in the right direction with about half of the amount of human characters we are used to in these films, allowing for more focus on Kong and Godzilla. In fact, at least half of the film is told from the perspective of the titular monsters without dialogue. It’s an incredibly effective way to tell the story that provides viewers an intimate take on these beloved characters and gives us some of the film’s best scenes. At the same time, while not bad, the narrative is scattered and does make the first two acts of the film feel unnecessarily drawn out. We have three divergent storylines happening at once, each moving in a different direction without much time to develop any of them fully as the screenplay forces these stories together to not only get Godzilla and Kong to appear on screen together, but put aside their differences to deliver the memorable team up teased by film’s title. The story itself is not incredibly strong, but it is enough to generate lots of monster battles throughout the film, which is all you can ask of a film like this. It’s truly hard to fault the screenplay, as it is told in a fun manner that makes this feel like a super-sized length Saturday morning cartoon featuring Godzilla and Kong, but with a little more development or a shorter run time, the pacing issues could have been easily avoided.

Even with the film decreasing its emphasis on human characters, telling more of the story from Godzilla and Kong’s point of view, the human storyline is still important and features worthy performances. Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle reprise their roles from Godzilla vs. Kong as Illene and Jia respectively, and both of them are very good. Hall continues to be a great lead character for the series, simultaneously managing to ground the mythic showdowns as well as adding some emotion to the film as she cares for her daughter. Hottle once again wows with her talents as an actress and by how much she can stir up emotions in the audience, even if her touching scenes with Kong are less frequent despite being one of the best aspects of the previous film. Also returning is Brian Tyree Henry as Bernie, and while he largely gives the same performance as he did in Godzilla vs. Kong, alongside a different set of human characters, it plays much better than it did last time. But, the standout of the human cast is Dan Stevens as Trapper! Every second he is on screen, Stevens brings the perfect goofball energy that evokes the inner child within the audience, cracking joke after joke that will have you grinning from ear to ear. Even portraying a character that is a veterinarian to Kong, Stevens manages to bring a swagger and cool to this larger than life spectacle, instantly reminding audiences what an underrated actor he is.

But you aren’t watching Godzilla v Kong: The New Empire for its performances or story; you are watching it for the monster fights, which the film delivers plenty of! Unlike previous films in the series which featured two or three massive fight sequences, the action is spread out over the film’s entire run time with lots of smaller fights that all build towards the chaotic and exhilarating final act where we get the big fight of the film. Each fight delivers the spectacle that fans are wanting from the film thanks to excellent special effects, lots of carnage and the occasional bit of monster gore, even if these fights feel more sanitized to create a family friend tone to the film compared to the early entries of the MonsterVerse which had an undeniable darkness to them. The climactic third act fight is nothing short of madness with constantly changing rules, multiple players and mass destruction that reminds you why Godzilla or King Kong films must be experienced on the big screen. Regardless of how you feel about the story, once the action begins to explode across the screen you are going to have an absolute blast watching Godzilla and Kong on a rampage.

One can only hope for an overwhelming amount of monster brawling while watching Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, and if that is your expectation for the film, you are going to have a fun time with it. While the distractors that have plagued previous entries in the series are still present, this entry takes a step in the right direction by telling the story from both Godzilla and Kong’s point of view, and in doing so, it does something that the previous films have failed to do. If anything, it has only increased my desire for a future Kong film told entirely from his point of view that is void of any dialogue; only grunting and smashing. Packed with wall to wall monster mayhem, great special effects, and a truly sensational supporting performance from Dan Stevens that is the highlight of the film, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is everything you expect it to be and results in one exciting trip to the cinema.

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