Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire- Popcorn movie of the year

BD Godzilla

Kaiju is a Japanese word that is commonly associated with giant monsters/creatures. A subgenre of science fiction.

From Tarantula (1955) to Mothra (1961), and from recent releases like Pacific Rim (2013) to Dragon Wars (2007), Kaiju movies have been a cinema staple over the years. However, it's widely acknowledged that Godzilla and King Kong are the most globally recognised Kaijus.

These iconic titans have dominated pop culture for nearly 90 years. The first King Kong debuted on the big screens in 1933, it was directed by Merian C. Cooper, followed two decades later by Godzilla in 1954, produced by Toho Studio and directed by Ishirō Honda.

As of March 2024, we've seen 13 King Kong films and 38 Godzilla movies, indicating a consistent appetite for colossal monster movies and large scale productions.

While we could go into the reasons behind this fascination, our focus today is on the fifth instalment of the recent Warner Bros.' Monsterverse series. This idea of the film intrigued me due to its setup in the preceding installment Godzilla vs Kong (2021). This time featuring Godzilla and King Kong as protagonists, it's interesting to note that it's the second Kaiju movie starring Godzilla within a year, with Godzilla Minus One released by Toho Studio in late 2023, which, despite its modest budget, earned an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

So, does this new entry meet the expectations set by its predecessors? Could it possibly rival the success of "Godzilla Minus"?

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is a 2024 American monster film directed by Adam Wingard. Produced by Legendary Pictures. It serves as a sequel to Godzilla vs. Kong and marks the fifth installment in the MonsterVerse franchise.

The movie stars Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, and Fala Chen, with Hall, Henry, and Hottle reprising their roles from the previous instalment.

Synopsis

In this film, Kong ventures further into the Hollow Earth where he encounters more of his own kind. However, when faced with a tyrannical leader and a formidable titan capable of altering the climate, Kong must join forces with Godzilla to prevent catastrophic destruction on the surface.

Another opportunity

Before we proceed, it's important to mention that the director also directed Godzilla vs. Kong, which was one of the best popcorn movies of the year. Unfortunately, most people didn't have the chance to experience it in cinemas due to the restrictions that came with "2020".

While it was a visual spectacle, it lacked somewhat in terms of storytelling but still managed to deliver what we expected. Therefore on the one hand, it's good to see the director getting another opportunity to create another film, especially one that will be experienced on the big screen this time, but on the other hand might we be getting the same thing?

The positives

Godzilla x Kong understands its essence and stays true to it. At its core, the film is about Kaijus battling each other and destroying everything within its range. That's what we love to see regardless of the quality of editing, screenplay, or direction, and the fundamental question will always remain: does it deliver? The answer, for the most part, is yes. While the first two acts feature some good Kaiju fights, it's the third act that truly gives us value for that ticket.

If you're going to see this film, simply grab your popcorn, leave your brain at the door and set aside any expectations of logic. This movie is what people mean when they talk of escapism. The production team knew what they were aiming for, and expecting a depth in storytelling like a Christopher Nolan or Martin Scorsese movie would only lead to disappointment.

Talking of production, the cinematography leans more towards cool than just good. The Kaijus, starting with Godzilla, are incredibly framed. The cinematography is fantastic (especially on IMAX), and unlike the last one, this film is much brighter; most of the scenes, even with the Kaijus, take place during the day, and the visual effects don't disappoint.

The sound design then completes the circle by making the creatures' presence felt, especially with Godzilla, who is for the most part just roaring, and Kong, who is always thumping his chest and roaring.

When it comes to scale or the sense of it. For the majority of the film, the focus is on Kong, particularly in Hollow Earth, where the creatures are either larger or smaller than him. It's only during the third act that the true enormity of these Kaijus becomes apparent. This revelation provides insight into why they are considered monsters. While that third-act revelation was a pleasant surprise for me, I can understand why some viewers might find the first and second acts lacking in scale when Kong is in Hollow Earth.

The introduction of a young character in the film I thought was handled really well. In most Hollywood movies, small/young characters are given a much "softer" treatment. In this film, they maintain the tone of the universe and what they have established with the previous films.

While the performances aren't particularly memorable, they serve their purpose. The decision to centre the story on Kong and other apes, such as Scar King, the primary antagonist, was a good one. These characters' ability to convey human-like expressions adds depth to the narrative, making it easier for viewers to connect with them.

Kong and Godzilla are the stars, but I really liked Scar King as the villain. He is an orangutan shorter than Kong but more flexible and faster, plus he had a weapon that made him a worthy foe. But the main reason that I liked this character was the fact that he was one of the only few given a personality. Yes, he is menacing, but his movements and mannerisms just make him a really "cool" character.

Negatives

Too many subplots involving the human characters (Monarch) detract us from the core of the film, which is Kaijus fighting. While it's understandable to include human characters, the film ends up dedicating more time to them than to the monsters. Although this movie fares better than its predecessor in that aspect, it still suffers from an excessive focus on humans.

At some point at the halfway point of the movie, new elements are introduced, leaving the viewer wondering about the narrative plot direction. While attempts are made to explain these elements, they come across as exposition dumps, particularly evident when the characters encounter the natives of Hollow Earth.

Conclusion

This movie was clearly designed to sell toys, showcasing everything from Kong's mechanical gauntlet to Kong riding Godzilla, and even a young orangutan riding on Kong's shoulder as he is on a Kaiju. There are scenes in the third act that practically scream "action figure ."

However, don't misunderstand that thought; it's still a great time, especially on the big screen and particularly for children. It's screenplay and plot sometimes is convoluted, logic obviously doesn't exist in this universe but that's not why we go to see these movies. So, as an adult going into this, it's best to approach Godzilla x Kong with the mindset of watching 90s morning cartoons, and you might just end up having a fantastic time.

X: @stanslausmanthi

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