Enemies to Lovers, or “Godzilla × Kong: The New Empire”

Back when I was a little kid, I loved watching old Japanese Godzilla films whenever they were on TV. Today, I am still really fond of kaijū movies, so I never miss a chance to see one on the big screen. Of course, the Hollywood Monsterverse franchise is not without its faults, especially compared to the latest ambitious Godzilla films made in Japan. But as pure entertainment, these movies are incredibly fun. And that’s why I went to see “Godzilla × Kong: The New Empire” — to have fun.

The new film’s story is practically a pretext to throw you into the spectacular kaijū brawls. We explore the Hollow Earth again (this Vernesque concept was first introduced in “Godzilla vs. Kong”), and King Kong has to face a new threat there. A threat so dangerous that he’ll have to turn to Godzilla for help. Meanwhile, Godzilla, being Godzilla, would rather sleep all curled up like a kitten in the Roman Colosseum than fight other kaijū. Oh, and there are people too. Ilene Andrews, Jia and Bernie, first introduced in the previous film in the series, are making a comeback. Joining the trio is a friendly kaijū vet(!), Trapper.

The previous films in the Monsterverse franchise pretended — some better, some worse — to be telling a deeper story. Some of them were disguised as disaster films, and some of them alluded to the Vietnam War. Even in the previous film, which was quite obviously going for entertainment, somewhere between the lines Adam Wingard tried to warn the audiences about corporate greed. Well, this time he is not this ambitious.


Sure, on a certain level, “Godzilla × Kong: The New Empire” does ask a bunch of questions about the true nature of family (Dr. Ilene Andrews and Jia’s storyline) and criticises the hunger for power (the main antagonist’s storyline). But it’s all just a pretext and even the most attentive members of the audience will be quick to disregard these reflections. Because it’s all about the kaijū battles, right?

Well, you’ll get them aplenty. Godzilla defeating a dangerous titan to get its power and updater colour scheme? Check. Kong beating the hell out of a group of overgrown monkeys? Check. Mothra helping the title characters fight the antagonist? Check. And, of course: Kong trying to reason with Godzilla, which leads to a rematch between these two dorks? Check.

Wingard knows the audience’s expectations and stops at nothing to meet them. He shows spectacular battles and amazes with unconventional ideas. We not only watch fights, but also: Godzilla curled up in the Roman Colosseum, and Kong having his rotten tooth removed by Trapper the vet. And it all looks fantastic: thanks to solid cinematography by Ben Seresin and astonishing visual effects.

The VFX deserve their own paragraph because Wētā FX’s work is unparalleled. The Kaijū astound with their looks and are animated in such a way that you can read a whole array of emotions from their moves and expressions. It’s incredible to see Kong fed up with his fisticuffs with other giant monkeys, or Godzilla exhausted with his unending battles. The antagonist also looks great, with hatred and malice clearly visible on his face.

I could write something about the acting, but it’s not of this big a significance here. You have Rebecca Hall expertly doing the exposition-heavy monologues, Brian Tyree Henry serving as a comic relief and Dan Stevens emanating with his puckish charisma. Then, there’s Kaylee Hottle doing all she can to remain serious with a truly dumb storyline she was given. But it’s not that important when you have Godzilla and Kong in the foreground.

Someone could ask: “Is Wingard’s film the right step within the genre after the marvellous Japanese ‘Godzilla Minus One?’” But I’d say that the question is faulty. The genre is big enough to accommodate both deeper films and pure entertainment. Godzilla’s 70-year cinematic history is the best testament to that. So, while Wingard’s film will certainly not be considered a masterpiece, it will make many people smile. And, together with its predecessor, it is a peak enemy-to-lovers story. Yup, you read that right.

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