Comfortable and Furious

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

“Loud and Stompy”

Should I really be reviewing Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire with even a hint of seriousness? Probably not. Read the title and convince me this movie is in any way made by even mildly serious filmmakers. Would barely serious filmmakers put a random x in the title of their movie? No, no they would not. And that is how we get a giant lizard x giant ape film directed by Adam Wingard and co-written by Jeremy Slater.

Until directing 2021’s entertaining and deeply stupid Godzilla vs. Kong, Wingard was a little-known, indie horror director with very limited success. Slater’s filmography is even thinner yet manages to include the abysmal Fantastic Four (2015) and the somehow even worse Death Note (2017 and, bonus!, directed by Wingard). With the exception of a small handful of television episodes, Godzilla x Kong is Slater’s only credit since Death Note.

In a normal universe, Slater would be driving a school bus or phoning in a community college writing course by now, but in our bizarre universe he is directing a new Insidious movie, is listed as the sole writer on the upcoming Mortal Kombat 2, and is contributing as a writer to James Gunn’s new DC Universe. If I was still getting major movie gigs after penning some of the worst films of the last decade, I’d throw random x’s into random titles as well.

Before you start getting huffy about Godzilla x Kong not being meant to win awards, trust me, I know. I took my eleven-year-old son to this film because he is the target audience. I also appreciate fun blockbusters featuring large creatures punching each other and trampling on cities. That’s why my son and I are there and why you’ll be there too. But that doesn’t mean the film is exempt from some basic filmmaking concepts.

Take the continued inclusion of conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) in this franchise. Part of conspiracy theories is that the government is hiding something. The conspiracy theorist has little information, which is why the theorist’s goal is to expose the conspiracy so the government will release the information about the thing being hidden. We’re now into movie five of a franchise where titanic monsters like Godzilla are not a secret – having destroyed several cities – and Hollow Earth has been confirmed to the world. Conspiracy over. So, Monarch (agency that deals with monsters) researcher Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) going to Bernie for help interpreting her adopted daughter Jia’s (Kaylee Hottle) scribblings is completely nonsensical because Bernie can’t possibly have information that Ilene doesn’t already have access to. But, Bernie is kind of funny, so no contrivance is too weak to keep him around, even for this film.

You know who is also kind of funny though? Trapper (Dan Stevens). New to the franchise, Trapper is revealed to be a former love interest of Ilene’s, is a titan doctor/dentist, is eccentric, and stole Ace Ventura’s shirt. If you don’t already get the gag, don’t worry – Bernie will literally call Trapper Ace Ventura to Trapper’s face.

Trapper is also an employee of Monarch, has traveled to Hollow Earth, and is a King Kong expert (maybe?!). So why not have Ilene go to Trapper with the drawings? It’s not like the forced buddy comedy between Bernie and Trapper delivers more than a polite chuckle. In fact, it probably would have worked better if it was all between Trapper and Ilene. While I applaud the film cutting down the number of human characters from the last film, um…you missed one. 

On the positive side, the film starts out with exactly what we wanted – Godzilla fighting another titan (a crab-looking thing called Scylla) while trampling all over Rome. Well, Godzilla does spare the Coliseum, curling up in it like a giant doggie bed, even taking care to step over the walls when he wakes up later in the film. The problem is the fight is over in about five seconds when it should have taken five minutes. On top of that, the cinematography used in the scene (and the other fight scenes) is the atrocious shaky cam. My son commented how annoying it was to try to watch the scenes (and showed me, using his body to mimic what it looked like and it’s as funny as you are picturing) and I agree. Is it really too much to ask if we can actually see the action they spent more than $100 million on?

Back on the negative side, the first half of the movie is one giant headscratcher. Something has caused Godzilla to wake up, frolic to France, and eat all the radiation from a nuclear power plant in order to “supercharge.” As the humans and Kong are wandering around Hollow Earth, nothing is even hinted at to explain where this movie is going beyond a mysterious eyeball captured on the camera of a Monarch outpost in Hollow Earth. Eventually, they discover a tribe of people related to Jia and the movie comes to a dead stop to allow Ilene to read the movie’s plot from a wall in the tribe’s village. That is not a joke. That happened.

But wait – it gets worse. There’s a prophecy, the villain Godzilla was charging up for is just another ape called the Skar King, and the Skar King has control of another titan that caused the last ice age (yet who can’t even freeze Kong when blasting him with ice breath during a fight). The second half isn’t so much head scratching as it is mind-numbing. This is why Slater should be driving a bus, not a pen.

Did I get it all? Bad cinematography – check. Pointless characters – check. Writing that doesn’t even make sense in a Hollow Earth world with stompy titans – check. Did I mention the music sounded like a toddler imitating a cat imitating Hans Zimmer at ear-splitting volume? No? That too. Like I said, I know what the movie was supposed to be. For the stretches when titans were battling other titans, it was that movie and it was fun and entertaining (even with the shaky cam). But that doesn’t excuse flubbing so many other components of the film, especially since Wingard directed the previous film and didn’t make these same mistakes. Nor does it excuse that x in the title.

Rating: Ask for half your money back since it was harder to see the stomping than it should have been.


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2 responses to “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire”

  1. Goat Avatar
    Goat

    I watched and reviewed Godzilla, King of the Monsters 5 years ago, and it was horrible. https://www.ruthlessreviews.com/features/godzilla-king-of-the-monsters/
    I don’t care to ever see another one of these.

  2. Kevin Avatar
    Kevin

    All films in this franchise exist for the sole purpose of satisfying our lizard brains.

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