wed 22/05/2024

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire review - a bit of a monster let-down | reviews, news & interviews

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire review - a bit of a monster let-down

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire review - a bit of a monster let-down

Old foes become new friends amid the usual wreckage

The beastie boys: Godzilla and Kong team up for a smackdown against a joint enemy in ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’

The latest blockbuster of 2024 is this disappointing fifth entry in the so-called MonsterVerse franchise, owned by Legendary Pictures. About half of the film contain actors, while half of it is computer-generated – the likely brief future of cinema before AI takes over completely. In the battle for credibility between monsters and actors, the actors here come off decidedly worse.

From what I can make out, in reality, the Earth’s large creatures are generally the kind and peaceable ones – whales, elephants, the Jolly Green Giant etc – while the little ’uns like us cause all the trouble. Of course, Japan’s original Godzilla of the 1950s was the spawn of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s charming invention, and the original Kong was cruelly persecuted by our great-grandparents. If one were to be truthful, Kong and Godzilla might by now be amiably shooting the breeze across a restaurant table in their own version of My Dinner With Andre while humanity wrecks everything outside.
 
In today’s cinema, though, everything is a rumble for the sake of a rumble between the angry behemoths, while well-meaning scientists come up with last-minute technical ruses to sort them out. Much of the action here takes place in Hollow Earth, an upside-down Jules Verne domain leagues under our feet, full of mountains and vegetation, plus light that seems to originate from purple and green crystals. I’m no scientist, but I’m sure that makes perfect sense.
 
A group of techie types venture down in pursuit of well-worn “electro-magnetic disturbances”, and we find that Kong is battling an evil ape called Skar who has enslaved a group of other apes and a violet-coloured Godzilla who breathes ice. The original, radiation-breathing Godzilla is meanwhile tromping across Europe and sucking up sustenance from a French nuclear reactor. After Kong and Godzilla trash the Pyramids of Egypt, pretty much for no special reason (the poor monuments have only just survived the fictional assault from Ridley Scott’s Napoleon), our two pixel-wrought leads hook up for a very predictable smackdown with Skar.
 
The MonsterVerse, which started with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla in 2014, has struggled to thread a group of actors through its saga. Rebecca Hall follows up Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) in the role of a level-headed anthropologist named Ilene. (An earlier instalment, 2019’s poorly performing Godzilla: King of the Monsters, featured China’s Zhang Ziyi as another ethnographer called Ilene.) Brian Tyree Henry, a cowardly-but-smart podcaster, is also back as the butt of the script’s lame attempts at humour, along with the young Kaylee Hottle, a mute telepath from Skull Island, Kong’s former home. She’s the one performer to convey some stillness and grace amid the chaos, and thankfully excused the tin dialogue.
 
Perhaps because the creatures are so gigantic, there’s never any meaningful interaction with the humans (unlike in, say, Jurassic Park). Often, it’s as though the cast are behind glass on a viewing platform overlooking the action – or, more accurately, stuck for weeks on an Australian green-screen sound stage. Rebecca Hall gives the impression of someone over-qualified who’s working earnestly and conscientiously to pay off long-term student debt. A romance with a larky vet played by Dan Stevens never takes off, maybe because of his odd Anglo-Australian accent.
 
Adam Wingard’s movie is best aimed at those whose thumbs are working imaginary game controllers as they watch. There’s one good gag for the rest of us – the way Godzilla curls up inside the Colosseum in Rome at the end of a long day of biffing. Only a fragment of the structure gets knocked off by its tail. Please be careful with those monuments, Godzilla.
 
The same consideration is hardly extended to downtown Rio de Janeiro, where the final battle takes place. Maybe once we wouldn’t have given a second thought to urbanscapes turned to rubble, but all of a sudden, amid the world agenda of today, there’s something deeply jarring about the sight of all those gratuitously smashed and twisted buildings.
 
The movie is best aimed at those whose thumbs are working imaginary game controllers

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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