Earth Isn’t the Only Thing That’s Hollow — Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

William J Hammon
8 min readApr 4, 2024

Even though I made fun of the trailer for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, and apparently poked the bear so hard that trolls were suggesting I end myself as penance, I do dedicate myself to being as fair as I can possibly be to every movie I see. I’ve had a lot of gripes with the Warner Bros. “Monsterverse” over the years, but I’ve had fun on occasion as well. There is a sweet spot where all this can work. There’s no way it’ll ever rise to the level of Godzilla Minus One, but that doesn’t mean this franchise can’t stand on its own and show some quality.

And for what it’s worth, there are some cool and creative choices made in this movie that actually answer some of the critiques I’ve had with this series. For example, the picture does sort of deliver on the promise of madcap kaiju action, giving us the most beastly battles we’ve yet seen in this iteration of the IP. It still only boils down to about 20 of the film’s 115 minutes, but it is an improvement. I mentioned in my review of Godzilla vs. Kong that it didn’t make sense for the monsters to lumber slowly given their size, so this time they actually sprint, and it’s kind of awesome. There are a couple of scenes that are just laugh out loud funny, like Kong using the advertised “Mini Kong” (his name is apparently Suko, but it’s never said, because who in this universe would know it?) as an actual weapon in a fight, beating other giant apes upside the head with the annoying urchin. Dan Stevens plays a Han Solo-esque side character who’s good for a smile or two. Kong himself has something akin to a personality this time around. The climax features an inspired sequence where all the combatants fight in zero gravity for a brief period.

In short, there ARE things to like about this flick, if all you want is mindless monkey action. There’s a good half hour of content peppered throughout this project. The problem is that, if you’re looking for literally anything more, you’ll notice that everything outside of what I just mentioned is just so god-awfully dumb, nonsensical, and BORING that the passable stuff barely registers. Like the utterly baffling naming convention with the “x” (the best I can think is that it’s meant to be silent, like how some anime shows like Hunter x Hunter is just pronounced “Hunter Hunter”), there’s just so much confusing shit that bogs the whole thing down and seems to actively snuff out any attempt at sustained enjoyment and fun.

We begin the story, if you can even call it that, in the dumbest idea from the last movie, Hollow Earth, where Kong has made himself at home, and has apparently learned how to set up elaborate traps to capture and kill packs of hideous wolf things (he rips one in half as a show of strength, accidentally dousing himself in viscera; I guess if you have to maintain a PG-13 rating, fake CGI animal gore will have to do). While he’s feasting on his kill, he apparently looks lonely, and he also has an infected tooth, which necessitates the inclusion of Trapper (Stevens), who works as a Titan veterinarian. You read that right, folks. The first act of this picture is basically King Kong Gets a Toothache. The only distraction from this is Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall) feeling distant from Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the deaf native survivor of Skull Island who taught Kong how to sign. So it’s dentistry and teen angst so far. Goodie. At least since Jia’s mute we don’t have to hear whining about how nothing’s fair.

Jia senses a disturbance in the Force, er, I mean a telepathic sign in dreams about a pattern of seismic interruptions, and believes she’s being drawn to Hollow Earth to help Kong. Andrews reluctantly agrees, and for some reason also recruits conspiracy theorist blogger Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry once again being tragically misused) to tag along. Meanwhile, Godzilla (given his top billing in the title, you’d think he’d be around for at least half the action, but it’s basically 80–20 in favor of Kong) feels something is amiss as well, so he casually kills a couple of monsters and absorbs some nuclear energy from a power plant, apparently in preparation for some new threat.

If you want an indication of how useless the human characters are in this, look no further than these last two paragraphs. The action unfolding on screen pretty much speaks for itself, yet we have entire swaths of people, particularly Dr. Andrews and Trapper but also an entire submarine crew, who only exist to provide braindead exposition for what we just saw. Godzilla fights a monster? Someone tells us that Godzilla fought a monster. Godzilla goes to the Arctic? The sub tells us that he’s in the Arctic. Godzilla takes a nap in the Colosseum, Andrews quips that if Italy doesn’t like it they can get a new Colosseum, just in case we didn’t notice what landmark it was or the giant “ITALY” location font on the screen (honestly every surface destination in this picture only seems to exist based on the whims of what tourist attraction the creative team wants to destroy with cheesy visual effects).

It only gets more convoluted from here. A cannon fodder pilot joins the team (Alex Ferns plays the only human casualty with a name) only to act grizzled and get eaten by a tree, and apart from Bernie’s dead-on-arrival comic relief reaction, it’s never brought up again, nor is there any other environmental danger. There’s a whole prophecy with a Hollow Earth sect of Jia’s tribe (which also happens to be telepathic, because opening their mouths would only make us stupider) that just so happens to appoint her as a “Chosen One” who is the only person able to awaken Mothra (even though Monarch people literally did that two movies ago before Jia’s character was invented). The laws of physics just do not exist anywhere in this world — hollow or otherwise — except when it’s convenient for the plot. From one moment to the next, we’re just going on a spree of tangents that have nothing to do with each other, as if the film is trying to overload our brains to the point that we give up, drool, and accept everything at face value.

There isn’t even a titular “new empire,” really. The main threat is an ape called the Skar King. Why is it spelled that way? Fuck you, that’s why! According to the Iwi (Jia’s people), he led a tribe of apes against Godzilla’s species long ago and lost. They were then punished by being imprisoned in a dark, molten area of Hollow Earth (sure, let’s just have random lava instead of a liquid core in an area where sunlight somehow illuminates thousands of miles underground), and the Skar King has spent the intervening however-the-fuck-long trying to find a way back to the surface, fixating on invading the hidden Iwi sanctuary which has portals to the overworld. He leads this tribe under threat of a different, ice-based lizard Titan called Shimo, whom he controls with some kind of “pain crystal” attached to the end of a combo whip/sash he wears around his shoulder, but it’s clear there is no unity behind him, only fear, so there’s no “empire” to emerge.

And while the Skar King has a few moments — including kicking another monkey into lava and straight up laughing at Kong — nothing about this danger adds up. So he can control one Titan, but why would that allow him to rule with an iron fist? Surely about 10 apes or so could gang up and take him out, even with his crystal. Similarly, his presence is teased with the destruction of a Monarch observation post on the Hollow Earth surface (Skar’s lair is deep underground, Kong himself only finding it — and meeting Suko — after a rift opens up in the ground), surveillance footage picking up the image of something ape-like before the facility is obliterated. Well, if that’s the case, why attack the Iwi at all? Clearly the apes have access to scout above ground, and if they’ve seen any of these outposts, surely they’ll have noticed the portals all around that Kong and Monarch use to travel between worlds. Problem solved.

It all comes back to this weird need that the filmmakers have to overcomplicate what should be insanely simple. If the audience wants kaiju fights, give them that, and don’t mess about with inane plotting and characters. If you’re going to even bother having a human cast, give them something interesting and meaningful to do. Don’t just make up a ton of empty mythology and pander to nerds looking for Easter eggs and cross-franchise references. No lie, when Kong fights Skar for the first time, his arm gets injured and he leaves the stupid axe behind that he acquired last time out. When the humans make note of this, before I could even mutter, “He’s not the god of axes, is he?” to myself, Trapper has already set off to the aforementioned destroyed station to pick up a “prototype” enhanced arm guard that was conveniently not damaged and basically serves as Kong’s version of a goddamn Infinity Gauntlet. What the hell are we even doing anymore?!

If nothing matters and we’re just setting up a series of events that leads to a fight, then just do that. Don’t try to justify everything through explanations and side quests that make no sense. It’s not like we can take anything seriously with the visuals anyway, as everything still looks fake as shit. Seriously, at this point you might as well just make a feature length animated kaiju film and dispense with the humans altogether. I mean, the script and the performances already feel like they were done by AI, so why not just finish the job?

This could have worked. To my extreme surprise after I saw and playfully mocked the trailer, this actually could have worked. The pieces were there, and we got hints of giddy brilliance. But between giant primates getting dental implants, a fake dilemma about a teenager feeling like they don’t belong, the return of Black Alex Jones, an absolute onslaught of moronic exposition, and the stunning sidelining of one of the title monsters for most of the picture, I’m at a loss as to how any of this can be saved. Maybe a blast of nuclear breath is the only way out at this point, because outside of a few brief reminders of what might have been, Godzilla x Kong is as soulless and artificial as the computer that spat it out.

Grade: D

Join the conversation in the comments below! What film should I review next? Do you prefer goofy or serious kaiju movies? Do the cartoonish visuals enhance the experience for you or detract? Let me know! And remember, you can follow me on Twitter (fuck “X”) and YouTube for even more content!

Originally published at on April 4, 2024.



William J Hammon

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