'Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire' Is All Monster, No Human

Directed by Adam Wingard

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

BY Rachel HoPublished Mar 29, 2024


The most extraordinary feat in a film like Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is its ability to convey a plethora of emotion from CGI-derived, non-verbal creatures. It's something director Adam Wingard and VFX supervisor Alessandro Ongaro accomplish, particularly through Kong and his primate cohorts. But, as with Wingard's first instalment in this iteration of the Monsterverse, the humans only get in the way.

Wingard's follow up to 2021's truly excellent Godzilla vs. Kong explores the origins of the various creatures and wades deeper into Hollow Earth. After the events of the first film, the two monsters have reached a détente — Godzilla hangs about in the surface world thrashing monsters that humans can't deal with, while Kong rules Hollow Earth. The film briefly examines the loneliness of Kong in his futile search for others of his kind; that is, until his senses lead him to find a whole new layer to Hollow Earth where more large primates live.

By introducing so many new creatures, characters and locations while also trying to continue developing the already established world, New Empire ultimately succumbs to putting a hat on a hat... on a hat. Wingard jumps around and rushes through an incredible amount of lore and unnecessary cinematic science to the point that only confusion remains. And yet, there's a nagging feeling that within all this hot-potato storytelling lies a pretty cool story involving Kong and his brethren.

Unlike Godzilla vs. Kong, the former doesn't get much screen time this time around (although he's gotten enough shine of late with Godzilla Minus One) and I personally will not complain. Wingard and Ongaro's imagining of the King of the Beasts and his kind is awe-inspiring and incredibly impressive. Through facial expressions and demonstrative body language alone, the film connects audiences to Kong's story in a way reminiscent of silent era films — but with more bellowing growls, of course. Every second Kong, little Kong and Skar King are on screen, it's quietly engaging in a way that transcends the film as a whole.

If the computer-generated creatures of the film are the players in a silent film that compels audiences, then the actual humans acting in the film are the intertitles. Save for the brief moments of comedy from the Brian Tyree HenryDan Stevens combo, the humans simply exist to read out the Wikipedia plot summary — expository monkeys, if I may.

Look, all we want from our creature features is Kong and Godzilla decimating cities, throwing Donkey Kong punches and MMA-ing the shit out of each other — just good wholesome entertainment is all. New Empire proves this to be the bread and butter of a modern day creature feature that can use the best technology to deliver on an entertaining slugfest.

It also proves that either the budget can be saved by removing actors from this genre altogether, or the budget needs to be expanded to create scripts where actors are actually necessary.

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

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