25th Jun2024

‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, Fala Chen | Written by Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, Jeremy Slater | Directed by Adam Wingard

Adam Wingard returns to the director’s chair to deliver a second helping of the mother of all monster battles, following his superlative work on 2021’s Godzilla Vs Kong. The fifth film in Warner Bros’ MonsterVerse series, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (the “x” is silent, in case you were wondering) sees Kong and Godzilla teaming up to take on a new pair of adversaries, but not without punching each other a bit first. Got to give the fans what they want, after all.

The plot picks up a couple of years after the events of the previous film, with Kong now settled into his new home in Hollow Earth and Godzilla taking down Titans on the surface world, in between power naps in the Colosseum (a lovely visual gag, despite the fact that Godzilla clearly wouldn’t fit). However, when Dr Ilene Andrews’ (Rebecca Hall) islander daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) begins sensing strange signals from Hollow Earth, she puts together a team that includes podcaster Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), Kong’s dentist Trapper (Dan Stevens) and grumpy security expert Mikael (Alex Ferns, aka Evil Trevor from EastEnders) and the group travel underground to check up on Kong.

When they arrive in Hollow Earth, they discover a new threat in the shape of monstrous ape The Scar King, who’s controlling ancient frost-powered Titan Shimo through the use of a mysterious crystal. And as The Scar King and Shimo prepare to invade Earth through an ancient portal, Kong realises he might need a bit of help from his big scaly friend and provokes Godzilla by making an appearance in the surface world.

Having made what is arguably the best of the MonsterVerse movies so far, it’s fair to say that Adam Wingard understands exactly what fans want from this franchise, which is, to put it plainly, as many scenes of giant monsters beating hell out of each other as (in)humanly possible. To that end, lessons have clearly been learned, as the number of human characters has been significantly scaled back – it’s telling that there’s no human antagonist this time round, for example – in favour of giving us more monster vs monster action.

On that note, Wingard delivers beautifully. As with the previous film, a lot of thought has gone into the monster battle choreography, with each of the creatures displaying particular fighting styles and signature moves – Kong still prefers a good old-fashioned punch in the face, for example, while Godzilla is a fan of a sneaky tail attack or a carefully deployed laser blast,

However, there have been some upgrades this time round, just to make sure things are a little different, visually, from the previous movie. To that end, Kong gets a giant electro-charged boxing glove (his response to one of the characters wondering “Do you think he likes it?” is one of several cheer-worthy moments), while Godzilla gets all juiced up with pink radiation for his laser powers, thanks to absorbing the energy of a colourful Titan beforehand.

The special effects are terrific across the board, from the movements of the creatures to the destruction of the various city stomping grounds and the different landscapes of Hollow Earth. In particular, the level of detail on the two main characters is extremely impressive, giving both Godzilla and Kong a great degree of character. Kong’s greying hair is a particularly nice touch – he is getting on a bit, after all.

The writing on Kong is impressive too – in the course of the film he gets both toothache and frostbite, making him that much more sympathetic, but you also feel his loneliness, and his hope when he makes a connection with a tiny Kong named Suko (a scene-stealing wide-eyed cutie). The effects work on Kong’s facial expressions is wonderful too, particularly when he realises he’s going to have to fight Godzilla before they team up.

Admittedly, nobody really goes to see MonsterVerse movies for the human characters, but they’re pretty decent, nonetheless. In particular, Dan Stevens makes a welcome addition as a sort of super-vet to various Titans – he sparks an appealing comic rapport with Henry’s character and gives the film a high camp factor that feels both entirely appropriate and a far cry from the po-faced seriousness of the early Godzilla movies.

That sense of camp extends to the soundtrack, which includes at least one delightful disco needle-drop. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Wingard gets the tone exactly right, so here’s hoping any future MonsterVerse directors manage to hit the same notes.

It’s fair to say that the film isn’t entirely without problems. For one thing, Godzilla fans might feel a little short-changed, because despite the title, it’s Kong who has the majority of the screentime. Maybe Godzilla needs a better agent?

There are other problems too, most notably a couple of niggling questions over logistics – there are at least two key moments, both involving Dan Stevens’ character, where he has to do a thing and the film cuts to him having done the thing, making the audience wonder exactly how the hell he pulled that off the thing in the first place.

There’s also a problem with exposition in general, which is either too clumsy, involves characters making frankly insane leaps of logic, unquestioned, or poorly handled. This is particularly notable in the third act, where there are meant to be very high stakes involving some sort of gravity field, but it’s never entirely clear what’s actually happening.

That said, none of the above issues actually detract from the sheer level of fun the movie delivers. When push comes to shove (which it does, a lot), this is an enormously entertaining creature feature that will leave you excited to see who Godzilla and Kong team up to take on next.

Blu-ray Special Features:

  • Commentary by Director Adam Wingard, Visual Effects Supervisor Alessandro Ongaro, Production Designer Tom Hammock and Editor Josh Schaeffer.
  • GxK: Day of Reckoning
  • Evolution of the Titans: Godzilla Evolved
  • Evolution of the Titans: Kong’s Journey: From Lonely God to King
  • Journey to the Center of Hollow Earth: Visualizing Hollow Earth
  • Journey to the Center of Hollow Earth: Monsters of Hollow Earth
  • The Battles Royale: A Titanic Fight Among the Pyramids
  • The Battles Royale: The Zero Gravity Battle
  • The Battles Royale: The Titans Trash Rio
  • The Intrepid Director: Adam Wingard: Big Kid
  • The Imagination Department
  • The Monarch Island Base: Portal to Another World
  • The Evolution of Jia: From Orphan to Warrior
  • The Intrepid Director: Adam Wingard: Set Tour
  • Bernie’s World: Behind the Triple Locked Door

**** 4/5

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is out now on DVD, Digital, Blu-ray and 4K UHD.

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