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‘Godzilla x Kong’: Not Quite The Ideal Sequel We’d Hoped For

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I don’t know what putting a random ‘X’ means in things. It reminds me of when I bought the first volume of Spy X Family. I’m not sure what that letter is supposed to be telling me. I’m relatively sure it’s just supposed to be a substitute for “and”, but has the symbol “&” or “+” really become that difficult to type? Why not Godzilla + Kong? I feel like this is something hip, and I am too old to get it. Don’t get old, kids; everything gets worse and confusing AND your back hurts, often for no good reason. I threw my back out for three (3) days earlier this year from coughing. A minor cold ended up laying me up for three full days, unable to move. It was awful.

Anyway, I just got out of the cinema for a trip to see Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. As a really big fan of its predecessor, Godzilla vs Kong, I was excited to see the film this opening weekend. Having not cared at all about the new Ghostbusters flick, I was thrilled to see that Godzilla x Kong had booted that out of the Dolby cinema at my AMC theater. I’d get to see the two gigantic behemoths clash on a massive screen with engrossing sound, just as god and Nicole Kidman intended.

Kong in ‘GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE”. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Godzilla x Kong starts out with the two kaiju beasts separated: Kong is in the Hollow Earth and Godzilla is on the surface, each doing their own thing. And unlike Godzilla vs Kong, they stay separated until almost the two hour mark of the movie. Whereas the last outing had the two encounter each other early and often, here they stay apart until the middle of the final act, when the film decides it is time to get down to business.

On the surface, Godzilla is busy wrecking titan butt up on Earth proper, that is, when he isn’t curled up in a cat ball and napping in the Roman Colosseum. Meanwhile, Kong is finding out there are more great ape monsters in an uncharted region of our planet’s Lost World-esque center. The human characters (who I would name if they were worthwhile enough to have names) are also in the Hollow Earth, tracking down a distress signal that the deaf Iwi tribe girl from Skull Island is attuned to. What they find are the rest of the girl’s tribe, as well as some ancient exposition carved into stone.

Skar King in ‘GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE”. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Kong ends up angering Skar King, the ancient and more evil giant ape, who reveals he has control over a titan, Shimo. As Kong flees the battle, Skar King finds a portal out of Hollow Earth. It’s up to Kong, partnered with Godzilla, to stop the nemesis beasts from making their way back to the surface and causing mass destruction. 

TWO UPS AND TWO DOWNS

+Well, we get another Kong vs Godzilla fight, and it’s as entertaining and silly as the brawls from the last movie, so that was nice.

Kong, the more sensible of the two, realizes he needs Godzilla’s help, so he climbs out of the Hollow Earth and summons his rival. When Godzilla appears in Cairo to meet him, Kong tries to show he means peace and needs help, but Godzilla’s not world-renowned for his reason and the two engage in a short battle. It’s funny seeing Kong try to “reason” with the King Of Monsters, and this is easily the best scene in the movie.

+The special effects in these movies remain as good as WB is capable of producing. It’s wild watching these flicks next to the DCEU outings, as the latter have typically looked so terrible. But not here. The film tries to do more than Godzilla vs Kong did, and you can tell not everything is the same level across the board. But this movie still delivers a pretty good looking Kong and Godzilla.

Godzilla in ‘GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE”. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

-This movie learned nothing from what we all loved from its predecessor, as it takes way too long to get Kong and Godzilla on the screen together. I was bored senseless in the meantime as I awaited what the last movie was so eager to give me: the two titular kaiju sharing some screen time together!

What we get instead is way too much Hollow Earth stuff with our human characters, even as Bryan Tyree Henry does what he can to try to add levity to the situation. And look, I love Bryan Tyree Henry, but he’s more annoying here than funny. In fact, I was kind of hoping something would step on him, because he conflated confusion and awe with just yelling all the time at everything. It’s Exposition Mania running wild as our flesh-and-blood protagonists explain the Iwi tribe, Skar King’s history, Mothra’s role in it all, and how they are going to give Kong a Power Fist from Fallout to boost his unarmed combat rating.

Dan Stevens as Trapper, Rebecca Hall as Ilene, and Kaylee Hottle as Jiya in in ‘GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE”. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Godzilla has a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em fights on the surface. Kong mostly follows around a child ape and earns its trust and approval. It’s all a massive waiting game as we shift in our seats and wonder why it is taking Godzilla so long to “X” with Kong. 

– Our two big titans don’t just team up, as Godzilla spends 80% off the movie charging up his chi and getting stronger, while Kong gets a weapon boost. But if you are going to have Kong and Godzilla team up, then the oppositional threat has to be massive. It simply has to be a threat so powerful and so devastating that the audience sits in stunned silence.

Instead, what we get are an ape the same size but scrawnier than Kong, and it’s pet, the Pokemon Avalugg. They are massive, all right…massive disappointments. Nothing about either screamed out that they would be a threat to Godzilla alone, much less a powered-up Godzilla and his gorilla bro.

Suko in ‘GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE”. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

In the years it took them to make this movie, I refuse to believe that Shimo and Skar King were the best adversaries the folks at Warner Brothers could dream up. I kept waiting for the “real” threat to reveal itself, but nope. These two are it. And they were such a letdown.

OVERALL

For my money, Godzilla x Kong is going to go down as one of the most pointless and underwhelming sequels I’ve ever seen. While the previous affair was such a spirited romp that combined tremendous action with solid humor, Godzilla x Kong felt like it was handed off to writers who had no idea what made the other one work. 

★★ out of 5

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