Monster crash: ‘Godzilla x King: The New Empire’ is CGI-fueled, depressing dreck

Just one week after enduring the cinematic travesty that is Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, we have yet another shitball claiming to be an “empire” in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.

From now on, if it isn’t The Empire Strikes Back or Empire of the Sun, I’m going to take the word “Empire” in a movie title to be a harbinger of cinematic death.

I went traipsing into this film, forever a sequel junkie/optimist, hopeful that I could at least have a good dumb time. With the exception of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I’ve liked all of the new Godzilla and King Kong movies enough to give them a pass as relatively fun.

On the heels of the greatest Godzilla movie ever made (Godzilla Minus One) and the relative goodness that is the Monarch TV show, this film seemingly had the potential to be better than the just-passable Godzilla vs. Kong. Instead, it has all the things that were bothersome in Godzilla vs. Kong—turned up a thousand times to the point of pure dreck.

The film starts with some nonsense about Kong being lonely in Hollow Earth, the CGI habitat in which Kong found himself at the end of the last film. Godzilla, meanwhile, is still on the Earth’s surface, doing slumber parties in the Roman Colosseum.

In Hollow Earth, Kong eventually finds himself contending with Scar Kong. Yes, Scar Kong, a complete rip-off of The Lion King’s villain. (He actually looks like the scarred lion.) He also finds himself hanging out with a little baby Kong, because baby versions of cinematic fantasy icons are all the rage (Baby Yoda), and baby Kong should produce a much-needed cute factor. However, Baby Kong isn’t cute; it’s just kind of annoying. Also: Baby Kong is not Kong’s offspring, the result of a reckless night at a Hollow Earth dive bar. Nope; it’s just a little ape that shows up out of nowhere to give King Kong a pal.

Because much of the film takes place in Hollow Earth—a place with a CGI background—and Kong and his foes are all CGI, this movie plays very much like an animated movie. There are humans like Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens, but they rarely interact with the monsters, and their scenes are seemingly dropped in to interrupt all of the cartoon shit.

And what’s with the business of Godzilla running around like he’s the Hulk? Godzilla is supposed to be a big, lumbering idiot of sorts—which is part of his charm, and perhaps one of his weaknesses. But here, he’s an adrenalized superhero sprinting along with Kong. All that’s missing is a pair of torn-up purple jeans over his butt.

I was rooting for this to faceplant at the box office like sprinting Godzilla slipping on Ghostbuster ectoplasm and cratering into the Earth so hard that a sequel wouldn’t be likely. Instead, it was a huge first-weekend hit. Now I’m afraid the Monsterverse just got clearance to be the new Transformers franchise, and more incomprehensible mayhem will be on the way.

You could make the argument that the original “American” Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards back in 2014, got the iconic monster back on good footing, perhaps marking an improvement upon the preceding Toho films. He hadn’t been truly great in a movie since the 1954 original. But after that credible start, the new American Godzilla has devolved into a puffed-up cartoon version of himself.

As for Kong, I prefer my Kong lovesick and drooling all over the likes of Fay Wray, Jessica Lange and Naomi Watts. Kong: Skull Island was OK, but like Godzilla, he’s losing his mojo with each passing film. The more money that gets pumped into their likenesses, the dumber they get.

Godzilla Minus One was the first Godzilla to win an Oscar for special effects. Let me guarantee, right now, that Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire will not follow suit. What it will do is give license to even bigger, dumber and more useless films. It’s downright depressing and makes me long for men in monster suits again.

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