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‘Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire’ is an Anime Inspired Smash

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Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is gifted with the same creative fortitude as Creed III. With the third Rocky spin-off, Michael B. Jordan was thirsty to place his fingerprint on the franchise. Jordan took inspiration from his love for Anime films, such as Naruto, and injected his directorial debut with the sensibilities of those animated images. The fourth film of the Godzilla franchise sees director Adam Wingard accomplishing a similar feat.

It’s not a perfect film, but the colorful splashiness of this Monsterverse sequel is a surprising success. At one point in this movie, four monsters fly at each other in the air while roaring, each possessing a different color aesthetic. As the scene danced on a massive IMAX screen, the first thought out of this reviewer’s head was, “Adam Wingard needs to direct a live-action Dragon Ball Z.” Anime has a rapturous quality with the way colors depict action, power dynamics, and scale in exaggerated ways. The same is true of Godzilla x Kong.

[Warning: mild spoilers for the film discussed below]

What is Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire about?

Written by Terry RossioJeremy Slater, and Simon Barrett, the new sequel follows a structure familiar to the previous films. There is a central narrative involving Kong, the heart and soul of this film. When we are reintroduced to Kong, he lives an isolated life, ruling over Hollow Earth and hunting various other forms of Titans for food. He also has a toothache, which brings him home to the Monarch community. But the subtle, lonesome nature of Kong hooks the viewer. He is one of a kind in a world full of animals who have companions. 

Godzilla X Kong The New Empire
Kong in Godzilla x Kong; The New Empire (Legendary/Warner Bros)

Then there is Godzilla, who mostly takes a backseat through large portions of the film. The giant lizard now serves as a kaiju policeman for Earth above ground. When he isn’t being bothered, he remains restful as he curls up inside the Roman Colosseum. 

Then there are the characters who have almost no purpose except to move the plot forward and to explain plot developments. Ilene (Rebecca Hall) has absorbed Jia (Kaylee Hottle) into her home. The movie makes no effort to explore this new family dynamic between them.

Instead, before we blink, Jia has unexplained visions that may have a connection to Hollow Earth. Ilene, troubled by Jia’s upsetting visions, enlists the help of Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), who hosts an internet conspiracy show. Bernie connects Jia’s visions to recent seismic activity in Hollow Earth, and Ilene then seeks the assistance of Trapper (Dan Stevens), a quirky medical tech hippie working for Monarch.

Kong and the other human characters return to Hollow Earth to investigate the possible threat. Then, the film begins to break out the crayons and engulfs the screen in colorful destruction.

Legendary Pictures give Kong and Godzilla the spotlight

While the human components of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire may be underdeveloped, the film compensates by giving the monsters more character work. There are moments of pure thrill when Titans interact with nothing but body language, drawing us into their world. These moments are so engaging that we feel slightly disappointed when the focus shifts back to the human characters.

Godzilla X Kong The New Empire
Image from Godzilla x Kong; The New Empire (Legendary/Warner Bros)

The writers have said it’s been their dream to make one of these films with no humans and focus on the monsters exclusively. The sequel is a valiant effort to progress the franchise in that direction.

Still, the unwillingness to commit fully to a humanless narrative raises problems. Besides Jia, we care nothing for the human characters, largely because the film is not interested in them. Therefore, when the movie becomes about Ilene and company, our investment fades, albeit briefly. We’ll find that the clumsy decision is intentional and serves as a feature rather than a mistake.

Adam Wingard’s DNA is more prominent in this Monsterverse sequel

In 2014, Wingard made a strange little thriller called The Guestwhich also starred Dan Stevens. The movie was sadistic and creatively strange, featuring various scenes (including a finale) soaked in multicolor light. Synth music enhanced the film’s throwback feel.

Moviegoers felt the shift in color palette in Godzilla vs. Kong, but it’s completely unhinged here, and this is stated in the best possible way. Small and giant moments of spectacle are lit with a kaleidoscope of color temperatures. The monsters have more vibrancy in their art design.

For example, the movie features a villain known as The Scar King. The character is intimidating in execution, and viewers will beg to see him punished. But for a ruthless villain, the character’s hair design is particularly visually pleasing. It’s interesting to have towering, dangerous, and destructive creatures presented in disarming attire, almost like jellyfish.

Not to mention, the score by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL and Antonio Di Lorio, mixes small doses of synth sounds in its orchestra. Between the use of color, the use of synths, and other eclectic ingredients, Godzilla x Kong feels more like an Adam Wingard experience than ever.

Godzilla X Kong The New Empire
Godzilla in Godzilla x Kong; The New Empire (Legendary/Warner Bros)

Godzilla x Kong is an anime-inspired smash

The world of anime is known for its beautiful and exaggerated artistry. The characters are often depicted with big personalities and even bigger powers. In Godzilla x Kong, the filmmakers seemingly take inspiration from the medium and create stunning visual set pieces that make the movie feel like a live-action anime. Although the giant monsters in the film do not have Super Saiyan abilities, one can almost imagine Kong charging up an attack like Goku.

For instance, without saying too much, one sequence has a throwdown in zero gravity. The Titans fight in midair, objects and obstacles orbit around them, and Dan Stevens flies a futuristic vehicle while jamming classics. The sequence’s color scheme remains flashy, and so does the action. (This might sound like a spoiler, but reading it will not do the scene justice.)

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire sees the franchise go total anime in inspiration. It is a visually bombastic sequel that embraces all the colorful instincts of an Adam Wingard movie. The film lacks a lucid story, with the human characters serving as one-dimensional plot drivers. Still, Wingard knew what the audience needed from this movie. He ramped up the action and gave the monsters the spotlight instead. His boldness might have created one of the saga’s best films.

Godzilla x Kong is in theaters now. Are you seeing it opening weekend? Let us know what you think on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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John Dotson

Born and raised in Texas, John Dotson has been a film pundit for over 10 years, writing reviews and entertainment coverage at various online outlets. His favorite thing in the world is discussing movies with others who also love the art form.

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