Godzilla and Kong return to defeat a terrifying new monster enemy in this sequel of diminishing returns

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Source: Warner Bros

‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’

Dir: Adam Wingard. US. 2024. 115mins

The fights grow more gargantuan but the results only get punier in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, the numbing sequel to 2021’s Godzilla Vs. Kong. The two mighty Titans, who battled (nearly) to the death in the last instalment, find themselves teaming up to defeat an harrowing new foe – but the giddy spectacle of watching these monsters pummel one another quickly leads to diminishing returns. There is very little emotion or inspiration underneath the orgiastic violence and, especially in the wake of last year’s ingenious Japanese-produced Godzilla Minus One, The New Empire feels old hat.

 There is very little emotion or inspiration underneath the orgiastic violence 

Warner Bros. releases the picture in the UK and US on March 29, looking to top the $470 million worldwide that Godzilla Vs. Kong collected – even more impressive considering that film hit HBO Max at the same time it invaded theatres. The New Empire brings back stars Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry, who are joined in this sequel by Dan Stevens, but the monsters are the main attraction and the picture’s ability to command IMAX screens should help boost gigantic grosses.

After their epic tussle in Godzilla Vs. Kong, the titular creatures now dwell in their own domiciles; Godzilla protects Earth from dangerous new Titans, while King Kong lives below the planet’s surface in Hollow Earth. But when Dr. Ilene Andrews’ (Hall) adopted deaf daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) begins to pick up strange vibrations that seem to be emanating from Hollow Earth, the two of them, along with monster conspiracy theorist Bernie (Henry) and irreverent Titan veterinarian Trapper (Stevens), journey to find the source of the signal.

Godzilla Vs. Kong director Adam Wingard returns for this follow-up, which fully invests in a world in which the Titans live among us, their potential to destroy cities leaving humanity in a perpetual state of anxiety. At the same time, though, Wingard tries to inject some levity, whether through Stevens’ sarcastic quips or the occasional cheesy classic rock song on the soundtrack. Even so, The New Empire is chiefly concerned with delivering high-octane fight scenes, with Tom Holkenborg and Antonio Di Iorio’s electronic score amplifying the drama so that each confrontation rumbles with seat-shaking intensity. Avoiding spoilers, let it be said that the picture features new Titans — some of whom will be familiar from bygone Godzilla films — who join in the titanic skirmishes. 

The humans have rarely registered in this series, and The New Empire’s attempts to create a heartfelt connection between Ilene and Jia is particularly weak. Slightly more successful is Ilene’s flirty rapport with Trapper, a former flame who disappeared from her life. But the characters are crudely drawn — the talented Henry once again must play a one-note nerdy podcaster — and their primary job is to provide extensive exposition that explains to the audience what precisely is going on. (Hall handles the Titan lore, while Henry tackles the made-up science.) 

Much of The New Empire takes place in the mystical, jungle-laden Hollow Earth, but no amount of mythical creatures and sweeping vistas can compensate for the lack of imagination applied to the copious CGI. Kong will come to discover that he is not the last of his kind — some apes are friendly, some are not — but these films have consistently failed to bring much personality to this cinematic icon. That said, he does get more screen time than his nemesis Godzilla, the lumbering lizard with the nasty disposition. Considering how Godzilla Minus One managed to make the monster truly frightening and awe-inspiring (and at a much lower budget than these Warner Bros. pictures)The New Empire’s perfunctorily imposing Godzilla only pales further in comparison.

As is inevitable with a sequel to a film in which two sky-high beasts go to war with each other, Wingard’s only choice in terms of raising the stakes is to introduce even bigger and meaner new monsters. But bigger has never been the problem with these fitfully engaging Titan films — rather, it is the monotony of the fight scenes and the inability to capture the majesty and horror of a reality in which these deadly beasts run roughshod over the planet. For all the punches thrown and buildings pulverised, The New Empire barely leaves an impact. 

Production company: Legendary Pictures

Worldwide distribution: Warner Bros. Pictures

Producers: Thomas Tull, Brian Rogers, Mary Parent, Alex Garcia, Eric McLeod

Screenplay: Terry Rossio and Simon Barrett and Jeremy Slater, story by Terry Rossio & Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett, based on the character “Godzilla” owned and created by TOHO Co., Ltd. 

Cinematography: Ben Seresin

Production design: Tom Hammock

Editing: Josh Schaeffer

Music: Tom Holkenborg and Antonio Di Iorio

Main cast: Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, Fala Chen