Godzilla x Kong – The New Empire  (12A) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Adam Wingard, US, 2024, 115 mins

Cast:  Rebecca Hall, Dan Stevens, Brian Tyree Henry, Kaylee Hottle

Review by Carol Allen

Despite sharing star billing in the title, this is very much Kong’s movie.  Godzilla doesn’t really come into his own until the climactic battle the audience has been waiting for, when the two titans of the “MonsterVerse” join forces to save the world from extinction.

Early in the film Kong makes contact with the human race again when he is suffering from raging toothache and it’s down to Dan Stevens as Trapper, channeling the young Jeff Bridges in the long ago 1976 King Kong remake movie, to conduct a bit of tricky  dentistry on the big guy with the help of some mountain climbing tackle. 

Trapper, along with Rebecca Hall as Ilene, doing her best to fill in the story so far for the benefit of those like me who missed the last movie, Ilene’s adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who has a link to Kong from Skull Island days and enthusiastic vlogger Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) join the great gorilla in Hollow Earth, an ancient subterranean ecosystem, close to the planet’s core, which looks a lot like the rainforest of the Amazon. 

Here Kong and friends encounter what appear to be survivors of an early template for humanity and Kong discovers his inner parent, when he finds himself looking after a cute baby ape, whose googly eyes are reminiscent of Gollum in “Lord of the Rings”.  In another big fight screen he rescues more of his kind, who appear to be enslaved by Scar King, a big bully ape wielding a scary chain, which looks like it might be made from the bones of those he has killed.  

On the human side Jia discovers more about the ancient civilisation to which her past is linked and finally the group encounters that big threat to humanity, which causes Godzilla and Kong to join forces and save the world.   In fact it’s just one wildly impressive special effects sequence after another, with some dialogue in between while we wait for the next action scenes.  

One is though left wondering what Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, directors of the original King Kong back in 1933 would make of it.  All they had to work with was early stop frame animation of a gorilla puppet and a tiny replica of the Empire State Building, yet they still managed to scare the wits out of their audience.  Would they be lost in envy and admiration for what can now be achieved or would they think that perhaps the skills of the special effects merchants have overwhelmed the art of storytelling?

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