Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire review - "A fun, neon rumble in the jungle"

 Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.

The uneasy alliance forged between the kaiju big boys in 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong is tapped again in returning director Adam Wingard’s gleeful, eye-saucering smackdown. Godzilla x Kong is loaded with even more colossal beasties, nods to the Showa-era Godzilla films, and a lot of goo. Just don’t expect the humans to match the monsters’ expressiveness.

Wingard’s film picks up after the destruction of Mechagodzilla and Kong’s departure to the subterranean Hollow Earth, leaving Godzilla battling city-stomping enemies on the surface. Trouble is, it takes a good hour to explain just how we’re going to get to the fur-flying, earth-shaking, atomic-blasting fisticuffs we’ve come for.

Saddled with exposition-heavy dialogue that can only intentionally be this flat, the plot follows Monarch scientist Dr Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) as she teams up with conspiracy theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) and a former flame, titan veterinarian Trapper (Dan Stevens), to travel to Hollow Earth after Andrews’ adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) starts experiencing visions.

Meanwhile, ‘Zilla is amping up his power between naps (where he curls up in Rome’s Colosseum like a gigantic scaly cat). As the humans explain every damn thing (and in Stevens’ case, via a ridiculous accent), parallel stories of parenthood emerge, one centered on Andrews and her kid, the other on Kong and a newly discovered ‘mini-Kong’. Also in the mix: an Avatar-esque commentary on colonialism and a neon battle of the monsters that’s like being inside an '80s pinball machine.

The latest instalment in the TV/film-straddling MonsterVerse, GxK is disposable fun, saturated in vivid colour, fond of Guardians-style needle drops, and boasting impressive global fights that smash international landmarks. Its big bad, the Skar King, is a decently nasty piece of work (key likes: animal cruelty, slavery, blood as a fashion accessory) in a world of XXL personalities.

Some of those personalities shimmer with a CG iridescence that is at times truly beautiful. And the humid Australian location work is gorgeous. As a visual exercise it’s impressive; as an emotional journey, not so much. Unlike those in Godzilla Minus One, people are merely ciphers, plant food, and a means to further plot. The monsters communicate feelings far better with a shiver of breath or dilating pupil.

But frankly, if you’re buying a ticket purely for the behemoth battles then you’ll get your money’s worth: take your pick from a trippy rumpus that defies gravity, a Copacabana beach-off, some Planet of the Apes-esque monkey business, and a literal dust-up at the Egyptian pyramids.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is in US theaters and UK cinemas on March 29.