More a proper Kong movie with some Godzilla spice sprinkled on top than the titan buddy movie that the marketing materials insists this film is, Adam Wingard’s cartoonish Godzilla x Kong: New Empire is loud, brash, and dumb, with its wee share of monster fun. Will it be enough to satisfy audiences hungry for more large-scale monster mashing? Probably – but for a franchise that consistently undervalues things like character, stakes, and scale, and still manages decent box office returns and mild reviews, that’s not particularly hard to achieve. This fifth edition in Warner Brother’s MonsterVerse picks up after the events of Godzilla vs. Kong where, as the title implies, the two titans threw down in a tedious battle that overshadowed any semblance of human subplot.

The journey begins below the surface in Kong’s newfound kingdom of Hollow Earth. His days filled with staving off computer-generated monstrosities of variable size and strength, Kong wanders. Monarch researchers studying Kong have deemed the giant ape “lonely.” So begins Kong’s search for some simian solidarity. Meanwhile, on Earth’s surface, Godzilla faces off against a malevolent giant bug in a sequence that is somehow unconvincing, inadvertently silly, and just fun enough – a fair summation of the film as a whole. When a mysterious distress signal issues from somewhere in the vastly unmapped Hollow Earth, both Kong and Godzilla must prepare to face off against new and overpowered enemies in the Skar King and the frost-breathed Shimo.

In the margins of all this creature chaos are researcher heroine Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) who shares a bond with Kong, conspiratorial Titan Truther Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), and Goliath Veterinarian Trapper (Dan Stevens). The low effort script from Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, and Jeremy Slater wisely whittles what had previously been an overly expansive cast down to just this handful of characters. And yet, the movie still has no idea what to do with them.

[READ MORE: Our review of ‘Godzilla‘ starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Cranston]

They scuttle between Earth’s surface and Hollow Earth to bandage up Kong after some fisticuffs or dump exposition about alternative physics, the ancient Iwi civilian, and chimera chemistry with Hall in an especially thankless role as the film’s primary Explainer-in-Chief. Even Henry, who I usually quite like, is saddled with some really unfortunate dialogue. Stevens in the sole bright spot on the human cast, a mix of flashy mugging and down-under charm that really spotlights the performer’s charisma. 

[READ MORE: Our review of ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters‘ starring Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown]

The MonsterVerse entries consistently fail to balance the human scale against the monster mayhem and by all indications, this division isn’t improving any time soon. Godzilla Minus One, which against all odds won an Oscar for Visual Effects just last month, proved recently that a good Godzilla movie not only benefited from a compelling human story, it necessitated it. That balance between carnage and compassion creates a story that actually feels consequential. Here none of the colossal brawling means much because there’s nothing at stake. When Wingard’s feature focuses on Kong’s journey, and his subsequent unearthing of the Skar King’s layer, it gets close to capturing a sense of stakes in our affections for the Gigantic Ape. Ironically though, whenever anyone actually speaks, any sense of peril dissipates and we pray for prompt homosapien consumption. 

Visually there’s nothing really standout in the muddy CG skirmishes between the collection of ne’er-do-well juggernauts. The color palette this time around – a brightly-lit miasma of neons – is somewhere between Lisa Frank and an EDM rave, which at least gives the film a characteristically goofy sense of style. But the fact that Wingard can’t construct a single set piece that’ll be remembered even a week after release speaks to the overwhelming sense of malaise that haunts this feature and franchise. At least when the monsters are smashing, the humans tend to pipe down. 

CONCLUSION: ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ at least tries to have a little more fun with this MonsterVerse property than some of its overly serious predecessors but the head-scratchingly numb script and lame human subplot overwhelm the kaiju conflicts. Dan Stevens is the sole human bright spot but this is unquestionably Kong’s movie. 


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The post Monstrously Dumb ‘GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE’ As Empty As Hollow Earth appeared first on Silver Screen Riot.

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