Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire: an enjoyably goofy monster mash

Human characters have to work hard to keep the plot moving, but a spectacular tag team of colossal beasts help smash through this film’s weaker moments.

30 March 2024

By Kim Newman

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)
Sight and Sound

The latest entry in Warner/Legendary’s ‘Monsterverse’ series is something of a jumble, starting with the title. Is it ‘Godzilla obliterates Kong?’, ‘Godzilla times Kong?’, ‘Godzilla kisses Kong?’. Let’s see. 

What Adam Wingard – the first returning director in the series – delivers here is a direct sequel to his Godzilla vs Kong (2021), retaining only human characters introduced there (while cutting a lot of accumulated sub-plots) and going deeper into Hollow Earth theory to discover another lost world inside the earlier film’s lost world. Here, a mystic tribe of gravity-manipulators and a horde of giant apes ruled by an evil baboon wait impatiently to interact with incomers from the surface world.

Holdovers Rebecca Hall (boffin in tailored jumpsuit) and Brian Tyree Henry (podcasting conspiracy theorist) and newbie Dan Stevens (laid-back veterinarian dentist who specialises in giant monsters) are amiable characters, but have to work hard to keep wheels turning when the star creatures are offscreen. 

Skull island survivors Jia (Kaylee Hottle) and Kong both seek others from their tribes, with Jia welcomed as a princessy messiah by inner-earthers and Kong bonding with Suko (aka ‘Mini-Kong’), a young monkey who is initially a minion of the wicked Skar King. This is about all the character development there’s room for given the multiple bouts between the title stars and all-comers, climaxing with a tag-team scrap which is only incidentally about fending off an apocalyptic ice age.  

Godzilla Minus One, made outside this series by Godzilla’s Japanese home studio Toho, reclaims the daikaiju as the terrifying force of nature of his first appearance in 1954 and dwells on the tragic devastation left in his wake. 

Godzilla x Kong takes mass destruction much less seriously, with Godzilla napping between fights by curling up in the Colosseum and the crucial Godzilla/Kong rematch levelling the pyramids. Besides the long-armed, mean-spirited Skar King – whose title Kong presumably inherits, finally becoming King Kong – the film produces an anti-Godzilla in Shimo, a saurian titan whose ice breath counters Godzilla’s now-pink-tinged atomic blast. The newcomers are deftly sketched: enslaved Shimo isn’t entirely to blame for its actions, while the Skar King is an actual, malicious villain rather than an animal-shaped extreme weather event.  

The always-welcome Mothra shows up to make peace between former antagonists and persuades them to join forces against greater threats – her specialty since Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, 1964. Over their initial run, Toho’s monster films turned from adult sci-fi/disaster to children’s adventures. The Monsterverse, which has been going since Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla (2014) has followed the same path. This spectacle fully embraces the toddler-tantrum-on-a-colossal-scale aesthetic and is winning because of rather than despite its essential goofiness.

 ► Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is in UK cinemas now. 

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