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Godzilla and Kong are charging after someone
(L to r) GODZILLA and KONG in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release | Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

By Shannon McGrew

Within the last few years, the Monsterverse expanded, captivating audiences with its various movies and the recently released television show, "Monarch: Legacy of Monsters," on AppleTV+. It’s no wonder why the universe continues to grow steadily as more and more people become immersed in these epic tales. In GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE, the latest addition to the Monsterverse franchise, director Adam Wingard returns with a neon-infused spectacle that sees our iconic titans teaming up in a buddy cop fashion to confront a new and even more formidable threat to the planet. 

The story picks up in the aftermath of Godzilla vs Kong, with Kong now residing in Hollow Earth while Godzilla maintains dominance on the surface of the Earth. Both titans have established their territories and must coexist, respecting each other’s domain. Meanwhile, on the surface, Dr. Ilene Andrews (played by Rebecca Hall) is juggling her job of studying Kong and Hollow Earth and staying present with her daughter, Jia (portrayed by Kaylee Hottle), who takes on a central role in the film. 

Since their last appearance in Godzilla vs Kong, the dynamic between Ilene and Jia has evolved. In this installment, Jia yearns for a deeper understanding of her Iwi roots and heritage while also longing to visit Hollow Earth to see Kong. Kaylee delivers a gentle but impactful performance as Jia effortlessly tugs at the audience’s emotions as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and connection. Wingard also takes this as a chance to dive deeper into the Iwi tribe and their connection with Hollow Earth.  

Brian Tyree Henry returns once more as Bernie Hayes, the conspiracy theories podcaster still reeling from the previous film's events. Henry injects the character with a manic charm and humor that remains irresistible, much like his portrayal in the preceding installment. Rounding out the rest of the cast is Dan Stevens as Trapper, a veterinarian summoned into action when Kong experiences a dental issue. Stevens wastes no time leaving a lasting impression, sporting a Hawaiian T-shirt and a perpetual grin. 

Three individuals walk down a corridor with a serious look on their face and smoke in the background
(L-r) DAN STEVENS as Trapper, REBECCA HALL as Dr. Ilene Andrews and KAYLEE HOTTLE as Jia in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release | Photo Credit: Daniel McFadden

Following Kong’s dental emergency, Dr. Andrews becomes aware that Godzilla is experiencing erratic behavior that at first is assumed to be due to Kong coming up from Hollow Earth. As they watch Godzilla’s trajectory, it becomes evident that Godzilla is trying to build himself up with as much nuclear power as possible. Meanwhile, Kong inadvertently discovers a community of other apes residing in Hollow Earth, oppressed by a tyrannical ape named Skar King. He forces his subjects to toil under the looming threat of his secret weapon, an unknown titan never before encountered in the franchise. A formidable adversary is at play, necessitating Kong and Godzilla to join forces to overcome this newfound titan.

Wingard’s visual aesthetic is a tour-de-force featuring a vibrant palette of neon colors reminiscent of the 1980s. Complementing the stunning visuals is the film’s electrifying soundtrack by Junkie XL, adding a grand and thunderous dimension to the viewing experience. In a departure from the typical monster movie formula, Wingard refuses to keep the characters shrouded in shadows. Instead, he positions them in the spotlight for all to see. Drawing on his earlier works, such as The Guest, Wingard’s stylized approach leaves a strong impression, distinguishing it from other Monsterverse films. 

As for the monster battles - let’s be honest, it’s why we are here - they are nothing short of colossal. I had the opportunity to listen to Wingard discuss the inspiration behind the dynamic between Godzilla and Kong. He likened it to the love-hate dynamic between John Nada (played by Roddy Piper) and Frank Armitage (played by Keith David) in their iconic brawl from They Live. And he’s absolutely spot on. These epic showdowns unfold globally, with most fights occurring in iconic locations such as Rome and Egypt. Just be prepared to bid farewell to a few beloved world wonders. 

Blending lighthearted fun with gripping moments of tension, GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE has a more distinct vibe than compared to its predecessor, which might not resonate with everyone. My main critique lies in the abundance of characters and the limited time to explore their stories. A slightly longer runtime could have provided the opportunity to delve deeper into the new additions. Instead, it sometimes felt like there were too many competing storylines, which took away from the overall goal of what the movie was trying to achieve. 

That said, GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE is a momentous and audacious addition to the Monsterverse franchise. With its captivating visual style, mind-blowing fight scenes, and emotional storyline, it will have no problem drawing audiences in for an epic cinematic experience with our favorite titans.    

GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE will be released nationwide only in theaters and IMAX on April 12, 2024.


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