‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ review: Monster mash goes overboard with wacko plot

king kong godzilla
king kong godzilla

movie review

GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE

Running time: 115 minutes. Rated PG-13 (creature violence and action). In theaters March 29.

In “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” that “x” is supposed to signify a budding bromance between lizard and monkey. A creaturely collab.

But “x” is also the symbol that should have been prodigiously used to cross out the script’s many, many stupid ideas.

Does Kong, who heretofore believed that he was the last of his kind on the planet, really need to meet a cute giant child ape and then weigh the pros and cons of fatherhood?

Must Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the lonely little native girl discovered on Skull Island and then adopted by Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), be the 11 o’clock prophesied savior of a lost ancient civilization?

And are we supposed to buy that the deadliest foe that both the surface world and the subterranean Hollow Earth have ever faced is a cartoony orange primate called the Scar King, who wields a whip made of some poor sap’s spinal cord?

In the next movie, will Kong sing “The Circle of Life”?

The Scar King is the new baddie of “Godzilla x Kong.” ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
The Scar King is the new baddie of “Godzilla x Kong.” ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

When the titans, including a rather underwhelming Mothra, have their climactic battle in Rio de Janeiro, it’s not just the most exciting scene in the entire movie — it’s a breather from a brain-busting plot in which, early on, an anesthetized Kong gets his cracked tooth replaced by a hippie veterinarian played by the leading man from “Downton Abbey.”

Later, with his life imperiled, Trapper (Dan Stevens) jokes, “Nobody likes a dentist.”

For the love of Godzilla.

Before all of this madness happens, Ilene is at the Monarch headquarters in Barbados when she becomes alarmed by unusual quakes emanating from Hollow Earth.

Concerned about Kong, she heads down with Trapper, Jia, Mikael (Alex Ferns) the pilot and a podcaster named Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) for some reason.

Oh, right, the reason is comic relief, which director Adam Wingard’s totally un-serious movie doesn’t need at all.

Meanwhile, ‘Zilla, who the filmmakers thankfully do not attempt to impart a cuddly personality on, goes on a multi-continent tour to energize himself for the final clash.

Even though a few of the face-offs jar us awake — such as a fun one next to the pyramids in Cairo — the monsters are less impressive than in films past.

King Kong meets a little monkey who tags along with him through Hollow Earth. ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
King Kong meets a little monkey who tags along with him through Hollow Earth. ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

There is also something a bit off about CGI that makes these behemoths appear less sturdy and imposing.

Oddly enough, the most gravitas comes from Hall’s all-business scientist.

I’m more afraid of Ilene than the lame Scar King.

The more fearsome arch nemesis of “Godzilla x Kong” is “Godzilla Minus One,” the recent Japanese film that showed how effective these beasts still can be 70 years later when the story goes back to basics and the special effects are tactile.

Godzilla and Kong have fights in Egypt and Rio de Janeiro. ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
Godzilla and Kong have fights in Egypt and Rio de Janeiro. ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

All this silly detritus in this film are clearly meant to broaden the Monsterverse series — which, like all cinematic universes, is grinding to a halt — into something more than “big guy wakes up from hibernation, battles other big guy, levels major city.”

But, to state the obvious, that’s why anybody sees these movies. No one has signed on for a gorilla’s existential crisis. If you’re in the market for that, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” comes out May 10.