Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Review: Adam Wingard And Company Get Weirder, Go Harder, And Deliver Even More MonsterVerse Joy

Movies

Almost 10 years ago, the modern reboot of Godzilla became a hit so massive,  I don’t think anyone could have predicted it. Throughout the decade that ensued after Gareth Edwards’ efforts, Warner Bros.’ MonsterVerse franchise has steadily grown into another cinematic universe that could rival that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars. At least, I certainly hope it will, as director Adam Wingard’s Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is so much fun, it’s hard not to want more. 

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Pink Godzilla in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Release Date: March 29, 2024
Directed By: Adam Wingard
Written By: Terry Rossio and Simon Barrett and Jeremy Slater
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, and Fala Chen
Rating: PG-13 for creature violence and action.
Runtime: 115 minutes

Five movies and one TV season into this ever widening web now sees Godzilla (Himself) and Kong (Himself) separated in their own respective realms. Keeping the titans apart is apparently key to creating harmony for humanity, and no one knows that better than returning Monarch stalwarts Dr. Illene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted daughter, Jia (Kayla Hottle). 

MonsterVerse fans or fans of any sort of kaiju based entertainment, however, could tell you that peace was never an option for Godzilla x Kong, which sees both our world and the world of Hallow Earth threatened by a huge new threat.

Before you know it, it’s time to save the planet again, this time from the mysterious Kong-esque Skar King (Himself) – who has an axe to grind from the long forgotten past. Humans and Titans alike will need to pool their resources in a story that teaches the importance of co-existence as well as the value of family and friends. 

But seeing as this is a MonsterVerse movie, those lessons are taught through some hard driving action that has charm to spare and set pieces that provide true summer blockbuster thrills in late March. 

With Godzilla x Kong, the MonsterVerse seems to be finding a rhythm with its story and characters.

Adam Wingard is officially the first director to have returned to the MonsterVerse for a second feature, and his influence shaping Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is absolutely welcomed. While he inherited previous threads and characters from Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it feels like Wingard had more of a say in crafting his Godzilla vs. Kong follow-up. 

Though you don’t necessarily need to have seen 2021’s entry in the MonsterVerse to be able to jump into Godzilla x Kong, it’s clear that the visual and thematic languages Wingard developed are there. He and writers Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, and Jeremy Slater seem even more confident in what the film is. 

Things get weirder and go harder in this flick. Continuing the gradual shift towards the tone of the more playful films of the later Showa era in the Godzilla franchise, we get more monster blood and guts than ever before here. Mixed with killer needle drops that even James Gunn would be proud of and well-executed set pieces that help keep things moving, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is a finely tuned machine of destruction, fan service, and lore expansion. All this, plus the always charming Dan Stevens joining up as a Titan veterinarian, adds up to a raucous ride that never loses steam.

This latest MonsterVerse chapter is more Titan-centric in its plotting, and it works like a charm.

One of the big complaints for any Godzilla or MonsterVerse connected film has to be the human factor. Compelling protagonists diving into personal issues like in Takashi Yamazaki’s Godzilla Minus One a few months ago haven’t been a major presence. For those of you who might be walking into Godzilla x Kong and specifically hoping to replicate that 2023 cinematic experience, you’re going to be disappointed by two thirds of this story being centered around the Titans.

Again, we’re in the blockbuster wing of the Godzilla legacy, and that means zero-gravity battles, Titan tooth extraction, and a secret history that connects humanity’s past to that of the Titans. Not to mention, Godzilla x Kong actually gives Kong the greater share of the storytelling this time around.

It’s thanks to that focus that we get an entire extended sequence that would feel at home in the recent run of Planet of the Apes movies. Dialogue-free stretches see Kong learning about the Skar King’s domain, and while he hasn’t had a solo adventure since Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire feels pretty damned close. 

The other portions of this latest story follow a Godzilla quest on the surface world, and Monarch friends new and old navigating their survival between those realms. Another specific piece of praise that needs mention is smartly limiting the new human characters that are brought into the fold. 

Retaining Dr. Ilene Andrews, Jia, and kaiju conspiracy theories Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) from Godzilla vs. Kong, while introducing a handful of new figures to help out, minimizes the chances of confusion in this fast-paced story. Keeping the story lean and mean yet again, Wingard and company deliver a well-balanced, zero fat thrill ride that clocks in at a little under two hours.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is another big, beautiful step forward for Titans.

What  sets Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire apart from other modern blockbusters is that the franchise issue isn’t forced. Once again, there’s no post-credits stinger, and nor is there a mess of threads left to hang in the wind in the off chance that a sequel doesn’t  happen.

Adam Wingard has been teasing ideas for potential sequels, but this movie comes together as if it’s his last entry. You feel like everything is left out on the field by time Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire concludes – while also being left with a feeling that’s increasingly rare at the movies: genuine and mysterious curiosity for what comes next.

Takashi Yamazaki knocked it out of the park with Godzilla MInus One, and Adam Wingard has also swung for the fences with his close-in-proximity companion piece. As we approach the 70th anniversary of Ishirō Honda’s original mythic masterpiece, it is absolutely clear that both halves of the Godzilla coin are currently well-served by the respective filmmakers tending to them. 

If you happen to be someone like me who loves both, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is only another reason why Titan and kaiju fans alike can keep smiling, and keep rooting for these larger than life creatures to continue bringing the entertainment. One last piece of advice: take the time to spring for the premium large format experience on this movie.  When they put “Filmed for IMAX” on the posters, that wasn’t just marketing; that was a promise.  

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