Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, review: It’s monsters fighting – and that’s it

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire - Warner Bros

The big mystery around the latest entry in the Legendary MonsterVerse franchise isn’t whether it’s any good or not – it isn’t – but what on earth its title is supposed to sound like. Godzilla Ex Kong? Godzilla By Kong? Godzilla Multiplied by Kong? Personally, I like to think it’s intended affectionately, and we’re meant to make a little kissy noise between the monsters’ names. Godzilla, mwah! Kong, looking fabulosa! So bona to vada the pair of you after all these years.

Anyway, the point is it’s no longer versus: after the events of 2021’s enjoyable Godzilla vs Kong, the two giant beasts are now no longer at one another’s gas-holder-sized throats. Godzilla patrols the Earth’s surface, battling various off-brand monsters wherever they pop up, while Kong searches for his long lost family in Hollow Earth, a sprawling subterranean valley full of digitised megafauna and more natural sunlight than you might think. Then at ground level, top monsterologist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) is keeping tabs on the lumbering pair – so when Godzilla suddenly goes loopy, inhaling pure nuclear power from a French reactor, she scrambles a task force to find out what’s up.

This unlikely team consists of a conspiracy blogger (Brian Tyree Henry), an eccentric naturalist (Dan Stevens), an angry Scotsman (Alex Ferns) and Ilene’s adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last surviving member of the Skull Island tribe. And rather than proactively trying to save the world, they just sort of stand around while shouting the plot at each other, as Godzilla and Kong stomp off on their respective adventures.

Unfortunately, these turn out to be thunderously boring. Godzilla does some underwater wrestling, setting the stage for the arrival of a previously unseen classic creature from the classic Toho menagerie. And Kong discovers a tribe of giant angry apes led by a whip-cracking galoot called Scar King, after befriending a (comparatively) small sidekick you might call Scrappy Kong, and who is every bit as annoying as he sounds.

Up on the surface, the globe-trotting city locations are selected so arbitrarily, the dateline stamps become a sort of unintentional running joke – Cairo now, is it? – while the battles themselves are flailing messes, with none of the clarity or grandeur, let alone the emotional impact, of last year’s Japanese revival Godzilla Minus One. (NB: the Japanese film was made for less than a tenth of this one’s budget.)

“Dan Stevens looks like he’s having the time of his life!” apologists may argue. And in fairness he sometimes does, though I can’t say the mood proves infectious. There’s some commendable trippiness towards the end, but for the most part Godzilla Smooch Kong is all too ready to fall back on delivering the bare minimum promised by its title. It’s giant monsters fighting, the thing constantly shrugs: what else do you want? Ideally a bit more than this.

12A cert, 115 min. In cinemas from March 29