Review: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire – There goes Tokyo

Directed by Adam Wingard
Starring Kaylee Hottle, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens


Since Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot in 2014, every subsequent film in the ‘MonsterVerse’ has incrementally become more colourful, sillier, and… well, more fun. It seems like a well-balanced state of affairs currently that the US franchise is churning out big, dumb, silly, fun Godzilla films while the Japanese Toho films are levelling out for more solemn and grounded fare. What makes Adam Wingard’s Godzilla x Kong and its predecessor, Godzilla vs. Kong, work so well is that they are joyfully and knowingly leaning into this “dumbing down,” and all it takes to get something out of it is the willingness to join.

Godzilla x Kong picks up with Kong, peeling around in his Hollow Earth sanctuary, while upstairs on the surface of the planet, his young Skull Island survivor friend Jia (Kaylee Hottle) is adjusting to normal teenage life when she begins sensing distressing signals, which also seem to have Godzilla hot under the atomic collar. Returning to the Hollow Earth with her adoptive mother, Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall), Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), and newcomer “Trapper” (Dan Stevens, playing a decent guy for a change), a ragged dynasty of Kong’s enslaved kind is discovered, which threatens the surface world.

But why worry about all of that when you have very little time to wait between colourful neon scenery and epic battles? While there is no human physical performance for this film to prop up, the team working on this film has given us the bare necessities of narrative scaffolding to showcase some fun and imaginative Giant Monster on Giant Monster action, which really is what we are all paying to see when handing over our dollarydoos.

The human characters have been pared down to a vital few who are given a barely acceptable reason to come together and are entertaining enough to accompany. Refreshingly, despite some familiar Kaiju favourites showing up, this film seems to minimise relying too heavily on nostalgia, which can bog down a film trading on the familiarity of a known and loved IP. The film never stops long enough to labour any fan nods, and the only discernible fan service present is the intention for the movie to “do what it says on the tin” by providing a visually striking Monster Wrestlemania. It’s not all executed ideally, but it’s executed well enough.

Some may struggle with a stretch in the film, which relies on big-ape pantomime, but it’s all pretty accessible thanks to the strong performances of these digital simians. Unlike Guillermo Del Toro’s impressive Pacific Rim, the camera isn’t always firmly locked in the grounded limitations of the real world, and there are occasional moments of wild free-from-the-laws-of-physics CG camera shots that betray any chance of conveying scale as effectively as Gareth Edwards managed in 2014. Instead they seem to take on even more of a colourful and cartoonish look than what was even seen in Godzilla vs. Kong, but it feels like it’s all there to reassure us: it’s OK—you’re watching ridiculous fantasy.

This shift has been incremental over the series, but flick back to the 2014 Godzilla, and the difference is immense. If you already know you don’t want to see Godzilla x Kong, you’re probably right. But if you’re on the fence, just check your brain at the door, give yourself over to it, and it’s likely you’ll have a great time.