Smashing through the box office over the past two weekends, Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, has brought about a vast amount of praise and criticism. Is it the worst of the MonsterVerse? The best? To provide the ultimate, definitive answer, the staff of Toho Kingdom is giving their thoughts to end the debate once and for all. There will be spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film yet, you have been warned, but without further ado, check out the staff’s impressions after seeing fifth entry into this monstrous franchise.

Chris Mirjahangir

A visually BEAUTIFUL, fast paced movie with plenty of monster action. Loads of humor and laugh out loud moments. Some retconning/continuity issues that might make you scratch your head a little but they don’t distract from the fun of the film…

…while it’s true that you should see the film on “the biggest screen possible”, I’d also recommend seeing the film with the largest crowd possible. It’s a great spectacle popcorn film for families and fans alike!

 

 

 

Joshua Sudomerski

I must admit that I loved Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), one of my guilty pleasures that I rewatched multiple times when it was made available for streaming. It wasn’t a deep film, and it didn’t try to hide this fact, merely promoting the clash between the two titular Titans that some fans thought would never happen again after 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla. Learning that most of the same creative team would be returning for 2024’s Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, I had a vague idea of what to expect.

Needless to say, my expectations were more or less met. It’s a two hour CGI-heavy spectacle with a regrettably inconsequential score that once again delivers on monster action and characterization at the expense of the human characters, which have been whittled down in comparison to previous MonsterVerse films. In this case, this works to the movie’s advantage since the few major human characters present actually have very good chemistry, bouncing off of one another in unexpected ways. Trapper and Dr. Andrews share some history, which feels natural and I wish we could have gotten to learn more of. Bernie returns from the previous movie and, despite his usual conspiratorial ravings, goes through a small character arc of his own while serving as something of the “ordinary” man for the audience to relate to. Lastly, Jia ends up taking center stage on the human side of things as her Iwi connections come into play in a very big, but admittedly very cliche, way.

Onto the monsters themselves, it’s difficult to talk about them without entering spoiler territory, so skip the next paragraph if you haven’t watched the movie!

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

Much like the previous movie, Kong is the primary focus when it comes to characterization and progressing the story, and it’s a joy to watch. His mix of guardian- and royalty-like demeanor is in full display here as he shows compassion to his enemies, takes justified actions against those who wrong him or those he cares about, and is even more emotive and expressive than ever before. He’s the perfect foil for Skar King, a 3D Saturday morning cartoon villain who believes he is the center of the universe, and he was honestly just as fun to watch in action as he hams up his performance. The ancient ape disrespects everyone while in turn commands respect, and flexes his power with agile movements, a whip made out of something’s spinal cord, and his trump card, the massive ice monster, Shimo. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say about the movie’s “hidden” monster, who could have been replaced with a giant ice ray gun and served the same purpose. Regardless, Shimo is like the abused pet of Skar King that is forced to fight, and surprisingly the movie manages to capture her pacifist nature very well, which also won me over by movie’s end. Winding down, we have Suko, the official-unofficial “son” of Kong who has some of the best scenes in the movie in ways I guarantee you will not expect. The subversion of this seemingly innocent child ape, who starts off as a devious little gremlin and tries to have Kong offed several times before warming up to Kong’s compassionate nature, is one of the movie’s highlights. Finally, there is Godzilla, who grows stronger in response to Skar King’s inevitable return, and Mothra, who acts as Godzilla’s slap in the face to stop fighting Kong and learn to work as a team. Sadly, there isn’t much to say about these two, who feel more like afterthoughts in this Kong-centric story – ironically, they feel like guests much the same way Godzilla did in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992). “Kong X Godzilla” would have been a more apt movie title!

After leaving the theater, I knew my impressions were mixed, and I worried it would lean more toward the negative. However, after being able to discuss the film with friends and other fans, I found myself recalling numerous scenes that either made me laugh out loud or left a positive impression, and I’ve since warmed up to the experience. It’s a cliche-ridden action-adventure flick where you’ll have to turn off your brain for a couple of hours while massive monsters duke it out for the fate of the planet, and like the entry before, it proudly wears this as a badge of honor. I can’t in good faith say this was a “good” movie… but I can confidently say it was a fun one.

 

 

 

Tyler Trieschock

Consistently fun and entertaining.

I can’t stress that first word enough. The MonsterVerse since its very inception has struggled with making a film that’s strengths were not consistently kneecapped by it’s flaws. Godzilla (2014), with an enjoyable realistic tone, fantastic first and third acts, and stellar emotional acting by Bryan Cranston was hamstrung by the loss of that emotional core, a flat replacement, and a middling second act. For all the breathtaking musical and monster action highs of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), a tedious and infuriating human plot followed. And while Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) was a fun, action-packed romp with some fantastic character moments for Godzilla and Kong respectively, the human plot and poor musical score weighed that film down too. Only Kong: Skull Island (2017) so far has proven a truly great film amongst its very good to just good peers, and while I can’t say GxK is great, it does finally escape that inconsistent curse.

The star here is Kong and if there is a core of greatness to this film, it burns brightest when showing his loneliness as the last of his kind played against the discovery of an empire ruled by the cruel Skar King. From the action, to the jokes, to the movie’s very heart, Kong steals every scene he is in (To the point where it really should be Kong X Godzilla: The New Empire). That is not to say Godzilla isn’t a star in the film. He’s a powerhouse, readying for a war and while his scenes are shorter than his counterpart, I greatly enjoyed those small glimpses we do get of him.

The human cast, usually the proverbial weight that tries to sink these films, was thoroughly enjoyable this time round. I can’t say I haven’t seen Jia’s arc before, or heard better jokes compared to what Bernie or Trapper quipped, but I can say that I had a smile on my face throughout every plot, subplot, or action set piece. The highs never match the series’ best, but the worst this film has to offer, which is still Junkie XL’s score, can’t keep this juggernaut down.

(L to r) GODZILLA and KONG in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

So while not deep or thought provoking, Adam Wingard’s second venture into this franchise was unequivocally entertaining. I do hope he returns for a third entry and if it isn’t clear enough by now, I would definitely recommend Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire with a big olé thumbs up. It’s a monstrous blast to see with a crowd, a roaring good time with friends, and easily the funniest film of the MonsterVerse to date. For a full placement of the franchise so far in my eyes, I’ve created the list below:

  1. Kong: Skull Island (2017)
  2. Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024)
  3. Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
  4. Godzilla (2014)
  5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

 

 

 

Anthony Romero

Better than Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), worse than Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).

I hate the term “popcorn flick”, as at times it’s used to deflect criticism. That said, it’s hard for me to think of a better way to describe Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire. The movie is enjoyable, with pacing that sometimes goes too fast but never too slow while having nice action sequences. Some of that fast pacing comes at the expense of the characters, though. Where as it’s predecessor simply had too many characters which led to little character development… somehow though this film has even flimsier characterization. There is very little to say of the four lead characters, while secondary characters feel like they are often there for exposition dumps. In fact, I vividly recall the scene where Godzilla was approaching Tiamat’s lair and a side character is describing what’s happening… at which point my wife leaned over and said “this feels like a Disney World ride.” Honestly, it’s spot on, with heavy crammed exposition that quickly shifts from scene to scene.

Speaking of shifting scenes, Godzilla definitely takes a secondary role here. It’s not as overt as Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), but a contender. In fact, and spoilers ahead (seriously, recommend seeing the film first before proceeding), a better movie probably would have been solely about Kong and Mothra. Kong drives the narrative here, and while Godzilla does have cool sequences, his importance to the plot is largely to provide more muscle in the climax. That said, in many ways this defuses the threat of the film, which brings us to the villain.

SKAR KING in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Skar King is an interesting premise, something the movie does have a few of. While a formidable fighter and cruel, he’s also lanky and evokes a sense of being cunning. However, the film doesn’t really leverage this, especially as he ends up getting so outclassed in the climax. Without Godzilla in the picture, the stakes would have felt higher, but with a super charged Godzilla participating in the climax it feels like a cakewalk for the protagonists.

Where as Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) was at times over the top, The New Empire notches that up another level. It’s hard to imagine we went from a more realistic take on the franchise with Godzilla (2014) all the way to Kong’s B.E.A.S.T. Glove today. While there is a sense of Saturday morning cartoon glee to the whole thing, there are times that the film would have benefited from something deeper. The greatest example of this is our introduction to Kong in The New Empire. Sporting more grey hair than we last saw him and a tooth ache, Kong feels battle weary and a little tired. In a film franchise where Godzilla feels like he could be immortal, having a more vulnerable and relatable Kong sounds like a good contrast. However, the production discards this idea entirely, instead using it as just a reason to introduce one of the new human characters to fix the tooth ache.

Despite my complaints for something deeper, I must observe that the general audience seems to be enjoying the series. In fact, I can’t hide my joy that I’m very happy how well the film is doing at the box office. No it’s not a great movie. It is enjoyable, though, and one I’ll likely revisit fairly often for rewatches.

 

 

 

Matthew Freese

It’s been a pretty crazy time for Godzilla fans lately, has it not? Closing out last year was Godzilla Minus One, a downright masterpiece from Toho and a director that most Godzilla fans hadn’t even heard of beforehand. It was enough for the often looked down on Kaiju subgenre to even win an Oscar, for Pete’s sake! As well, an Apple TV series set in the Monsterverse, one which, while a bit controversial, certainly got my approval for its grimmer tone and the strength of its character writing.

And then, info started dropping on this movie. And it was… different. If Minus One was G54 brought into the modern day, this was Godzilla vs Megalon brought into the 2020s. It felt like an odd duck amidst the wave of hype, not something that failed to generate it, but just different.

Well it was certainly an interesting road to get here, but now that we have arrived, what is Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire actually like? Well, I’ll at least say this before diving into my own thoughts. If you didn’t like Godzilla vs Kong, I greatly doubt this will sway you towards director Adam Wingard’s style of filmmaking. And if you don’t care for the more outlandish of the early 70s Godzilla movies, you’re gonna be in a similar boat.

I, however, love both of those things, so I adored this movie to pieces. A thrill ride from start to finish, GxK is a movie of indulgence. If GvK was somewhat tempered by a need to reach out as wide as it could, GxK is casting that aside in favor of telling what it wants to tell without restriction. This is a dangerous road to walk on, but fortunately Wingard and crew avoid the pitfalls that typically come with a passion project and deliver something everyone can enjoy.

Godzilla x Kong follows the twin plot-thread structure of its predecessor, but gives one of those threads to Kong himself. There are, as promised in interviews, extensive sequences of just Titans. Not a human in sight. And while I initially received those words with hesitation, actually seeing it in action alleviated my fears due to the simple fact that Kong, alongside his fellow giants, are genuinely all characters of their own. This isn’t being done just for mindless action, it is a well crafted story being told without dialogue, entirely through body language and the intonation of various calls. Legendary’s Kong, in both of his previous appearances (and in the Skull Island anime on Netflix) is one of the most expressive colossi ever put to screen. And his fellow apes, Suko, Skar King, and all the others surrounding them keep up the pace. And I don’t say all this to say that Godzilla (and another Titan who I’m not sure I can mention here) are lacking in emotion, similar treatment is granted there as well. It’s just that Kong is truly the leading man in this film.

BRIAN TYREE HENRY as Bernie in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

And I also do not wish to ignore the human cast. Though they do not see as much screen time as in previous films, they are still a joy to watch. It feels as though GvK’s human cast has been trimmed of its weaker and brought here, and it works to great effect. A new character, Trapper played by Dan Stevens, is also present, and he steals the show even while sharing screen time with fan-favorite Bernie Hays, who is just as hilarious as he was last movie. Jia and Ilene’s story is emotional and well done, feeling like an organic continuation of their roles from before. Overall, while it may at times feel like this movie has cast the human element to the wayside, there is still a clear care being put into this side of things, even if it’s not exactly the masterpiece of something like Minus One.

Despite concerns after the initial trailer and reports of a lowered budget, this movie looks superb. An incredibly bright color palette makes every scene pop, and the titans are beautifully rendered in their actions. And speaking of action, this film’s battles are insane. From the opening with both titular titans taking on separate foes, all the way until a final battle that will make you feel like you’re watching an updated remastering of one of the old Atari Pipeworks Godzilla games, this is a movie packed with carnage and chaos lit up to see every gruesome detail. In my opinion, the worst thing a movie can be is boring, and it appears the people behind this agree and have striven to ensure it is not. It never feels like too much, the action scenes are spaced out enough to avoid becoming mind-numbing, and each new one manages to top the previous.

So, in short, GxK is a stellar time and did not disappoint or fall short of its promises. I greatly look forward to where the MonsterVerse goes from here, whether or not it’s under Wingard’s purview or if a new set of hands gets to steer the wheel, as long as it keeps up this level of energy that quite bluntly, most modern blockbusters just lack.

 

 

 

Andrew Sudomerski

This is a movie I’ve been looking forward to for the year; especially after Godzilla Minus One (2023)‘s massive sweep in terms of box office and Academy Awards, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire feels like a nice unwind into mindless fun after the emotional drama and enriching experience Minus One provided. And how did I feel about it?
I really liked it! Comparable to Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), but in different ways.

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

I’ll be keeping my thoughts here sparse and brief, as a review of the movie is currently inbound; but the monster cast has a lot of personality (particularly with the Great Apes of the movie, like Kong, Suko, and Skar King) and a ton of fun spectacle with its action sequences (even if some of them are pretty brief). But I also had fun with the human element, they had a decent balance of banter and levity that I feel for the most part compliments the movie. Godzilla and the Titans of the movie are also fun, even if they are a little tacked on (if The Hollywood Reporter article is anything to potentially go by for that “Son of Kong” project), it’s still decently executed material all things considered. While I will be going more in-depth with my criticisms in the review, I will say the music feels flat, and only exists in the realm of the movie. Kinda wish for another composer for a MonsterVerse movie.
Either way, had a blast, check it out now that it’s in theaters!

 

 

 

So do you agree? Disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.