Godzilla x Kong review: ‘Drunk on its own CGI’

Trapper joins Andrews’ expedition because Kong has a toothache, and Wingard’s impressive visual effects let us see that without anyone saying a thing. This Kong looks slightly different than before, his coat a subdued grey with a rougher texture. His gestures are more human, as he rubs his jaw with a pained expression. The first-rate effects include the humans’ scary descent into Hollow Earth and a multitude of creatures prowling around above and below, like the giant thing that looks part octopus and part crab that towers over an Italian city street.

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And Kong’s first action set piece is kinetic and absorbing. He is attacked by a band of vicious apes led by the villainous Skar King, whose main weapon is another creature called Shimo, a kind of ice-breathing dragon. Hall’s role calls for her to step in now and then and tell Trapper, Bernie and us some version of “That’s Shimo” even if those aren’t her exact words.

The Hollow Earth scenes include bits and pieces that bring to mind other adventure films. There’s an echo of the Planet of the Apes movies in Kong’s many ape-on-ape battles. Some episodes might qualify as homage. The humans stumble across an ancient temple that seems to be there waiting for Indiana Jones to turn up. Best of all, when Godzilla finally recharges his nuclear energy in the Arctic, he emerges with his once-blue spikes now a lovely pastel pink that wouldn’t look out of place in Barbie. Creating “Godzilla Barbie” can’t have been intentional, but we live in Barbie’s world now.

Godzilla has been storing up that energy to fight his own enemy, a reptilian creature called Tiamat, and Andrews decides that Kong and Godzilla must set aside their differences and together battle Skar King and Tiamat. But first they tangle with each other in front of the Pyramids of Giza. The scene is fun partly because Kong uses some old-school touches, kicking desert sand in Godzilla’s face and trying to drag him away by the tail. And Godzilla’s icy pink glow, with rays of rosy light roaring from his mouth, give the battle flair. By the time it gets to the final battle among the Titans, the film feels drunk on its own CGI. But as Stevens suggested, that’s what everyone, including the audience, signed up for.

Some films can re-energise a genre, like last year’s huge hit Godzilla Minus One (a Japanese movie that is not part of the Monsterverse series) draws viewers into the action instantly, and creates a streamlined World War Two story that is credibly human. It’s an old-style Godzilla movie that seems fresh. Godzilla x Kong is the opposite, a dazzling visual accomplishment that already feels old.

★★☆☆☆

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is released in the US and UK on 29 March 2024.

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