Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Can Only Muster a Feeble Roar

The kaiju fights are fine, but the convoluted plot is a real drag.

Readers of this site know that I am a massive fan of Godzilla and all things kaiju. The brilliant Godzilla Minus One was my favorite film of last year. I thought the Apple+ series Monarch was fantastic, adding layers of humanity to the recent WB/Legendary films. And I have enjoyed all of those recent movies, starting with Godzilla (2014) and going through Godzilla vs. Kong, to varying degrees. (Coming right after the pandemic, I cannot tell you just how much I whooped and cheered watching Kong and Godzilla whale on each other.)

So I was of course excited to see the latest entry, now showing Kong and Godzilla teaming up to fight…something. The trailer wasn’t exactly clear what was going on, but giant monsters! That’s going to be fun, right?


Alas, Godzilla X Kong: A New Empire is – by far – the weakest entry in the series. It’s a lot of literal chest-thumping covering for how empty this film is.

It picks up after the end of the last movie. Kong has returned to Hollow Earth, the untamed wilderness that is home to giant monsters and lies in the center of the planet. He is looking for more giant apes but has thus far only succeeded in getting chased by giant dire wolf things. Kong looks older and greyer here than in the last movie, and that’s a pretty apt metaphor for this whole enterprise.

Meanwhile, Godzilla has become humanity’s protector from other titans that run amok, like a C’thu’lu-looking critter with giant crab legs skittering about Rome. The two alpha monsters apparently worked out a bro-deal, where Godzilla roams the surface world and Kong runs Hollow Earth.

In Hollow Earth (and I am already tired of typing that), a seismic event opens up a lower layer that was previously sealed off. (A Hollower Earth? How many sub-basements are there before we get to the Earth’s core?) This has unleashed a tribe of evil apes, led by The Scar King. The Scar King was so evil and twisted, that he threatened to upset the natural balance and Godzilla had to seal them in. The Scar King is now eager to return to the surface world and conquer, and only Godzilla, Kong, and the Iwa tribe that lives in Hollow Earth, can stop him.

The Iwa? Oh right. Remember Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the little mute moppet from the last movie, who is the only one who can talk to Kong? She thought she was the only surviving Iwa when Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall) found her on Skull Island. Jia’s been seeing visions that resemble the strange seismic readings coming from Hollow Earth, so Dr. Andrews goes to consult with her favorite kaiju conspiracy podcaster, Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry). You know. Like your average top-secret quasi-governmental agency does. He quickly determines that it’s some kind of distress call, so the three of them, along with Dan Stevens – playing a wacky kaiju veterinarian named Trapper – head toward Kaiju Town. There the Iwa telepathically fills them in on what’s going on and how they need to summon Godzilla back.

Even by my extremely lax standards for monster movies, this plot is both convoluted and utter nonsense. How long do these giant apes live? Why does Godzilla care about humans? How long ago did he seal them in? And how much was sealed in? (Since there is apparently a whole world with water and blue skies the Evil Apes can roam around in.) Even though we are told repeatedly that Kong or Godzilla invading the other’s turf could lead to all out war, it never does.  Also, the Iwa can communicate telepathically, but who taught them English? (If I can read your thoughts, but your thoughts are in Chinese, that really doesn’t help me understand them.) Why is Scar King so hot to get to the surface? And even more importantly, who cares?

And I could forgive all of that if the monster battles were fun to watch. They’re just ok. They just feel rote and perfunctory, with none of the verve of the last movie where Kong throws a revolving restaurant at Godzilla like a frisbee. Scar King does have a pretty neat whip made out of a spinal cord, but he’s no King Ghidorah in a fight. He’s a big monkey, and Godzilla has fought big monkeys before. There’s not any sense of menace.

There are plenty of impressive visuals here – like the crystalline world of the Iwa people in Hollow Earth, Godzilla curling up for a nap in the Colosseum of Rome, and some very cool-looking seas serpents. But because the plot is ridiculous and the CGI is meh, nothing feels at all grounded. After seeing Godzilla Minus One and feeling the sheer enormity of Godzilla and the destruction he wreaks, this just seems small and insignificant. Even though the Kaiju lay waste to several world cities (Rome, Rio, and Cairo among them), there just isn’t the same sense of terror.

And yes, it’s not an entirely fair comparison. Godzilla Minus One was a deeply felt allegory about Japan dealing with post-war trauma, and this is a wannabe CGI blockbuster. But once you’ve shown how awe-inspiring and terrifying Godzilla can be, you can’t just coast by on CGI goop. You have to make a little effort.

The actors gamely try their best with the turgid exposition they’re given. Henry and Stevens have fun with their comic relief parts, but no one is going to put clips from this on their lifetime achievement reel.

All in all, it’s a disappointing outing for any fan of Godzilla, Kong, or giant monsters in general. Hopefully, the next one stays out of Hollow Earth and brings us some new monsters. Oh, and a plot that isn’t actively insulting.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Victor Catano
Victor Catano
Victor Catano lives in New York City with his adorable pughuaua, Danerys. When not writing, he works in live theater as a stage manager, production manager, and chaos coordinator. His hobbies include coffee, Broadway musicals, and complaining about the NY Mets and Philadelphia Eagles. Follow him on BlueSky and Instagram at @vgcatano and find his books on Amazon

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Readers of this site know that I am a massive fan of Godzilla and all things kaiju. The brilliant Godzilla Minus One was my favorite film of last year. I thought the Apple+ series Monarch was fantastic, adding layers of humanity to the recent WB/Legendary...Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Can Only Muster a Feeble Roar