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Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)—Epic, Nostalgic and Intense!

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire movie poster

After Toho retired the Godzilla franchise back in 2004 with the film Godzilla Final Wars, the franchise would be put on ice for nearly ten years, until Legendary Pictures acquired the rights to Godzilla and King Kong and released their first feature film, 2014’s Godzilla. Despite being an American reboot rather than a first of a franchise, the film was such a big hit that Legendary decided to turn the solo film into a franchise, dubbed the “MonsterVerse”, making three movies and two TV series. With the release of the latest addition to the MonsterVerse, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, many including myself are excited to finally see Godzilla and Kong team up.

Kong continues his quest in finding other great apes in the Hollow Earth, yet remains unsuccessful. Meanwhile on the surface Earth, Jia (played by Kaylee Hottle) struggles to relate to her peers, due to being the last of her people. Her adoptive mom, Dr. Ilene Andrews from Monarch research institute (played by Rebecca Hall) tries to help her find any remnants of her people. As Jia suffers from nightmares regarding Kong and the Hollow Earth, Godzilla begins absorbing nuclear radiation, preparing for war. With the help of podcast host (and conspiracy theorist) Bernie Hayes (played by Brian Tyree Henry) and Kaiju veterinarian Trapper (played by Dan Stevens), Dr. Andrews and Jia follow Kong into the Hollow Earth, where they discover a Monarch facility was destroyed by an evil great ape known as the Skar King, who plans on wreaking havoc on the surface world.

Godzilla and Kong in Godzilla x Kong

The MonsterVerse evolves with every film installment introduced. 2014’s Godzilla had a very dark and gloomy atmosphere, Kong: Skull Island was an allegory for America’s inner turmoil during the Vietnam War, King of the Monsters introduced environmental and existential themes and Godzilla vs Kong is the most action-packed of the entire franchise. So what does Godzilla x Kong offer? A story about self-discovery, 1980s retro aesthetic along with epic Kaiju action. We see how both Jia and Kong follow the same journey as nether believes they fit in their respective lives until they find the last remnants of their people. But while Jia assimilates better with the Iwi living in the Hollow Earth, Kong doesn’t have that same fortune. The great apes are under the tyrannical regime of Skar King, who silences dissent with Shimo’s cryokinesis.  

Speaking of Kong, the great apes and even the Iwi, I was amazed to see how Adam Wingard portrayed their verbal and nonverbal communication methods. Kong primarily uses American Sign Language to communicate with Jia and other humans, whereas the other great apes in the Hollow Earth rely on social cues exclusive to wild primates, such as grooming, hunting and gathering, using makeshift tools and weaponry. On the other hand, the Iwi communicate nonverbally through intense eye contact. While we never hear them speak, we understand what they are saying, almost as if their gaze speaks directly to us. There’s a popular phrase that the eyes are the window to the soul, and the Iwi are the epitome of that phrase.  

Iwi Queen in Godzilla x Kong

But no hero is complete without the villain. And Skar King is perhaps the most evil out of all the Kaiju villains in the MonsterVerse. An original creation from Legendary, Skar King not only enslaves his own people, but displays sadistic pleasure in torturing the great apes and killing those who stand up to his tyrannical rule. Everything, from his distinct red fur, to the primate he was based off of and even his weapon are all carefully curated to fit his ruthless nature. Being based off an orangutan (a red-furred species of primate that’s known for its intelligence) allows him to be far more capable of leadership and even fashioning and wielding makeshift weapons than chimps or gorillas. This brings me to my next point: his weapon. Unlike Kong who wields an axe made from a scale from Godzilla’s species or his henchmen who wield clubs made of bone, Skar King wields a whip that seems to be fashioned from an elongated Kaiju vertebrae. Why is important? Because the whip is the tool of a slave owner and oppressor.   

Everything, from the framing, to the music, to even the fashion aesthetic (looking at you, Trapper) pays homage to classic films from said era. For example, the shot before Dr. Andrews, Jia, Trapper and Bernie go to the Hollow Earth is reminiscent of the iconic “Need for Speed” scene from Top Gun. Additionally, Adam Wingard implements synthwave music throughout the film as either bumpers or to heighten emotions during an action scene. While this retro aesthetic seems to be making a comeback in film thanks to shows like Stranger Things, most movies rely too heavily on the 1980s aesthetic to the point where it ruins the final product. But Godzilla X Kong knows when to pay homage and when to do its own thing.

Skar King in Godzilla x Kong

Godzilla X Kong is easily the most cinematic film of the entire MonsterVerse when it comes to Kaiju action. Much like in its predecessor, Adam Wingard makes abundant use of wide shots to capture the scale of the action, while utilizing medium shots to get close ups of the actual fights. If you ask me, this is the best way to not only shoot Kaiju action, but action in general. Too many times have I seen action movies with nauseating editing, with simple sequences being spliced into seven different cuts! I’m so glad Adam Wingard actually allows us to see the action for ourselves in all its chaotic glory. We get to see each Kaiju’s overall fighting style: Kong’s brute strength and striking prowess, Godzilla’s wrestling while striking with his tail and relying on his nuclear breath, Skar King’s emphasis on agility and Shimo using her ice breath and overwhelming power. While many Godzilla fans point to King of the Monsters as having the best fights, I personally think that the fights in Godzilla x Kong are pound for pound superior due to this distinction of how each Kaiju fights, along with actually showing the fights in broad daylight.

Before the film was released in theaters, several people very vocally expressed their opinions on how bonkers the film appeared to be. And while, yes, the MonsterVerse became sillier as more films were made, it doesn’t detract from the movie-going experience. For those who were complaining about how it’s too silly, hello? The name of the movie is literally Godzilla x Kong! I came to see Godzilla and Kong team up, that’s exactly what I got! I don’t understand why so many critics are complaining about how the film has too many monster fights in it, you literally walked into a film that advertised giant monsters fighting! I didn’t waltz into the film expecting Casa Blanca or Citizen Kane, so why should you?

Trapper in Godzilla x Kong

Another criticism of the MonsterVerse is the lack of enjoyable human characters. And while some of the earlier entries were a mixed bag when it came to the humans, the MonsterVerse did improve with each entry. By the time of Godzilla x Kong, we get a full cast of not only likable characters, but characters that we actually care for. And out of the entire cast, my favorite has got to be Trapper. Known for his colorful personality, wardrobe and flamboyant taste in music, Trapper is the cream of the crop as he balances Dr. Andrews’ straight man with his wit and humor. Every scene he’s in is nothing short of pure gold. And despite Godzilla x Kong being his first appearance, longtime Godzilla fans already want to see more of him in future installments.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire made over $520 million at the box office on a budget of around $150 million, meaning that not only is the MonsterVerse profitable, but it’s here to stay. Personally, I can’t wait to see what Legendary does next, whether they will adapt some of Toho’s monsters (such as Biollante or Gigan) or if they will create their own original Kaiju. The possibilities are endless! Even if you’re not a Godzilla fan, you can’t deny that the MonsterVerse is one of the most immaculate and financially successful cinematic universes in Hollywood. Full of rich characters, epic action set pieces and 1980s aesthetic, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is one of my favorite Godzilla movies in recent date! Go give this one a watch, you won’t be disappointed!

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