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“Godzilla x Kong” Has Cartoon Energy

Written by: Patrick Howard | March 28th, 2024

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (Adam Wingard, 2024) 3 out of 5 stars

When the official trailer for the newest entry in the Warner Brothers monster-movie series, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, dropped online on December 3, 2023, a passionate line of discourse permeated social-media sites. What tone should an iconic and cinematic character like Godzilla stick to for general audiences? It should be noted that the Japanese-produced Godzilla movie, Godzilla Minus One, had its American release literally two days prior to the drop of that trailer. To many monster fans, Takashi Yamazaki’s movie did the impossible: create original and compelling human drama that pairs perfectly with the spectacle of kaiju destruction. Audiences were so impressed by this feat that a movie trailer depicting Godzilla and his human counterparts with an approach akin to a goofy Saturday morning cartoon was bound to leave a weird aftertaste.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, the fifth WB “monsterverse” movie and the second one directed by Adam Wingard (Godzilla vs. Kong), is a concrete declaration of the series’ full embrace of the silly and childlike tone of the Godzilla movies from the 1960s and ‘70s. After the 2021 cinematic brawl between Godzilla and King Kong, these two titans and their human companions, led by Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry—returning from that earlier film—come face to face with a new foe who plans to turn the titan home of Hallow Earth even more upside down.

l-r: Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

If you watch the official trailer of this movie, and you think to yourself, “I don’t really care for these human characters, but the idea of Godzilla and King Kong teaming up and beating up other monsters could be really cool,” then this movie is right up your alley. This is a movie with a blockbuster budget and the silly but fun ideas of the aforementioned cartoons. The human drama in Godzilla x Kong works well enough thanks to the earnestness of the over-qualified cast, but it never elevates beyond the necessary reprieves from the rock-‘em-sock-‘em monster action. Kaylee Hottle (also returning), the youngest actor of the film’s cast, effortlessly carries the kid appeal. Her character, Jia, a displaced member of a lost native culture in the monsterverse, goes on a journey of self-discovery. Hopefully, this series is wise enough to commit more to Hottle and Jia as she grows up.

To Adam Wingard, the priority is playing in this expensive sandbox and putting these iconic monsters into situations and battles that charge the imaginations of children and adults alike. The human characters are exposition machines. Wingard clearly has the knack for visualizing something as otherworldly as Hallow Earth or the fights of monsters the size of skyscrapers, but there is much left to be desired when such a visual director fails to understand the basic guideline of compelling visual storytelling: show, don’t tell.

Kaylee Hottle in in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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