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Review – Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire – “The film is built to entertain and it does it beautifully”

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is the fifth film in the “MonsterVerse”, but it doesn’t require you to watch the previous films to understand what is going on, just an appetite to see giant monsters fight on screen. Recently, Godzilla may have won his first Oscar for Godzilla Minus One – a return to human drama amidst the chaos of a titan, Godzilla x Kong reminds us of his showboating side as we see the monsters punch and radiation-blast their way over territory. Director Adam Winger by this point knows what the audience wants and it is less humans (though they still have a role to play) and more spectacle.

At the end of Godzilla vs Kong, Kong has taken domain of the hollow earth (a subterranean world) while Godzilla claims the surface as his territory; doing their best to stay out of each others way. Kong begins the film searching for more great apes like himself in the Hollow Earth, unconvinced that he’s the last one. As luck would have it, he stumbles onto a sealed-off part of the Hollow Earth where he encounters others, led by the dictatorial “Scar King”. Meanwhile, Godzilla senses a new threat is coming and spends most of the film doing side-quests so he can get stronger, causing as much collateral damage as he can on the way especially to any treasured monuments if he can.

Rebecca Hall returns as Dr. Ilene Andrews, who specialises her knowledge in all things King Kong. “I’ve got 2 PHDs” she smugly responds to Trapper (Dan Stevens) as they discuss the strange vibrations that seem to be calling Godzilla to action. The human cast has a real charm, centred around the young Kaylee Hottle as Jia, a deaf girl from the last of her tribe as she settles in with her adoptive mother Dr. Andrews. Jia longs to fit in, while Dr. Andrews fears she can’t provide her with a home. The concept of finding a home and people to share it with parallels neatly with Kong’s desires without being too overbearing. The human cast is rounded out by Brian Tyree Henry, who returns to play the conspiracy theorist podcaster Bernie, who supplies the necessary exposition.

Godzilla x Kong is a far cry from the grounded Godzilla (2014) film, there are weird portals, psychic links and gravity-defying crystals. It’s slightly nonsensical, but by not being po-faced and accepting it for the blockbuster ride it knows it is you enjoy the nonsense. Adam Wingard has said that there are multiple uninterrupted fights sequences, which now that I have seen them are epic in scale as you would expect, but also smart enough to let the audience understand the Titans through body language. Harking back to the era of silent film, Kong is humanised and allows the space to communicate through gestures and make the film stand out by giving the audience the respect to work things out themselves.

The plot is contrived in a lot of ways to make it move as quickly as possible. Kong just happens to stumble onto the Scar King, Jia just happens to have a psychic link to the new threat and Godzilla just happens to be able to swim from Gibraltar to Cairo in a matter of minutes. Audiences yearning for depth or meaning in this film will be left disappointed, the film is built to entertain and it does it beautifully. Fans of the franchise who have waited years for the Kong and Godzilla to team up will be thrilled and those looking to feel a big summer blockbuster earlier in the year will be elated, while others may be left with a headache.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire smashes into cinemas on 29th March 2024.

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