Godzilla and Kong have another rumble in the jungle of Hollow Earth and create a pretty fun action movie for this ever-widening Monsterverse.


The fifth installment of the “Monsterverse” shifts its focus off of Monarch’s schemes and does some literal deep dives into hollow earth to explore some of the orgins of these larger-than-life titans and how they came up into our world. Adam Wingard returns to the director’s chair for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, having previously helmed the last installment, Godzilla vs. Kong, bringing much of the same cast from that previous film with him for this one, including Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, and Kaylee Hottle.

Since the epic battle between Godzilla and Kong in the last film, there has been a tentative peace based on keeping these ancient enemies seperated. Godzilla has now become the protector of the surface of Earth, racing to face titan threats around the globe as they appear. Kong, is now king of Hollow Earth below the surface. Here he has established himself as the alpha supreme against all would-be-challengers to the throne.

When a broken tooth occurs, Kong pulls himself to the surface to get help from Dr. Ilene Andrews (Hall), which reunites him with Dr. Andrews’ adopted daughter Jia (Hottle), the last survivor of the Iwi tribe from Kong: Skull Island. It is here that we meet a man called Trapper (Dan Stevens), an over-the-top rock star veterinarian for titans who swoops into a sedated Kong’s mouth via helicopter to extract the broken tooth and give Kong an updated tooth (seriously). Kong’s presence on the surface, however, alerts Godzilla, who starts arming up for a final showdown.

Dr. Andrews finds out former APEX employee/whistleblower and conspiracy blogger Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), the film’s comic relief, to assist her in figuring out the source of some troubling electromagnetic spikes that are being picked up (that are also being detected by her daughter Jia) by Monarch’s team. This will lead them into bringing Kong back down into Hollow Earth to avoid another royal rumble with Godzilla and to discover the source of this disturbance.

While Monarch is still very present in the film, they serve the plot only briefly to have a reason to move Dr. Andrews, Jia, Bernie Hayes, and Trapper into Hollow Earth. The real focus of this film is the setting of Hollow Earth, and an undiscovered world within that will explain some origin stories for the animosity between Kong and Godzilla. It also reveals an unknown ancient threat residing in this subterranean world, as well as a mystery tied to ancient people of Skull Island. Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, on Apple TV+, it seems has taken on the mantle of continuing the Monarch story to allow Kong x Godzilla: The New Empire to give audiences what they’ve been craving: loads of Titan vs. Titan battles. And so, the titans themselves are the main attraction throughout this film, rather than the lurking threat of previous installments.

Before seeing this film, I have to admit that my expectations were really low. The graphics on the poster and even the teaser trailer made it seem a bit less than desired, and the poster especially had a kind of bad Beebop and Rocksteady vibe from the lesser Ninja Turtles films of the 90’s. This is the wrong vibe for the massively threatening characters of Godzilla and Kong. Seeing Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire on an IMAX screen, however, assuaged those fears. The film actually works visually and overall, of the five “Monsterverse” films, this one may be the first full-on blockbuster action film of the bunch. There are fewer plot threads weaving through the narrative compared to previous entries which allows for enough exposition to point us in the right direction and then let the titan brawling begin.

Narratively, there is still much to be desired, but the world-building going on in the Hollow Earth regions could pay dividends in future installments, or in additional seasons of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters on Apple TV+. The shear level of physical destruction also tops any of the previous entries. Basically, if you see a city depicted in these films then just know that it will be destroyed. No wonders of the world are safe either, like the pyramids of Egypt shown on the film’s IMAX poster.

Of the two main titular characters, Kong gets the most character arc, while Godzilla is the raw brute force of nature raining destruction on all he sees as a threat. Some classic titans also feature in this film that viewers will have to discover for themselves. There is no end-credit scene pointing towards the direction that this franchise is heading. It truly comes to an end that could be as open as it needs to be for endless possibilities of what happens next, or it could serve as an ending that would wrap up the entire monsterverse if the returns don’t justify another entry in the future.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters was a cool side jump into the lore of the mysterious agency called Monarch which features in all of the films, and there is much more to mine there to develop the overall monsterverse. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, however, is a good entry to leave all of that aside and just fully embrace non-stop kaiju fighting. Future entries would do better to be a balance of both if this is ever going to have any emotional weight or stakes for the viewers, but like this film, they better also bring the brawls.

Note: A viewing of previous entries and the television series is helpful, but not totally necessary as this film catches you up enough (as long as you kind of know who Godzilla and Kong are). If you want to watch the chronological order of the monsterverse (not release order), then I suggest: Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla vs. Kong, followed by this film, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. (I left out the animated Skull Island as I have not seen it, though it should be watched after Kong: Skull Island, and before Godzilla)