Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE is the fifth of the “Monsterverse” movies, and to me the best one. Don’t get me wrong, I kinda liked the attempt at a serious Spielbergian approach in GODZILLA, and the more fun and colorful (but weirdly nostalgic for Vietnam War imagery?) take of KONG: SKULL ISLAND, and the Hesei nightmare atmosphere of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, but my previous favorite was GODZILLA VS. KONG, because it finally went headlong into having cool giant monster fights where you’re still in awe but you get to see what’s going on.

GxK is the first one with a returning director (Adam Wingard, YOU’RE NEXT) and he’s able to hit the ground running and improve on GvK with a crazier mythology and a better-integrated human story. I had a big smile on my face pretty much the whole time, without having to say “Well, too bad they were just traveling in that tunnel for a third of the movie.” My only real complaint is that the great Brian Tyree Henry (WIDOWS) still has a dumb one-joke character to play – a Roland Emmerich type “funny conspiracy guy” updated to have a podcast and a Discord – but he not only gets some laughs but gets to be around the actual monsters this time instead of trapped in a needless b-plot.

That’s really the key to this one. I still think there could be a great only-monsters kaiju epic, but if you ever believed the myth that the humans don’t matter in this genre then hopefully you stopped talking that nonsense after you saw GODZILLA MINUS ONE. No Monsterverse movie has been half as moving as that one, but I do respect the series’ tradition of having ridiculously stacked, overqualified casts. You could go down the Monsterverse credits and cross out all the Oscar nominees (Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Vera Farmiga, Bryan Tyree Henry, Demian Bichir, plus winner Brie Larson) and the leftovers would still make an all-star cast of hot-shit up-and-comers, beloved TV veterans, etc.

I like that. If the humans in these movies are our offering to the gods we better give them our best, you know?

The problem is if you got Bradley Whitford in the war room or Charles Dance in a lab or whatever you’re gonna feel obligated to make it feel worth their time, give them shit to say, and keep cutting back to them. GxK finally broke that curse. It has its stars together in one group, on an expedition into the Hollow Earth, and they are the story. If Wingard needs to cut to someone else to explain that Godzilla is headed toward Cairo or whatever it’s not gonna be a big sweeping scene involving two Emmy winners as Dr. Jane Whosit and Admiral William H.H. Whatsit, it’s just gonna be one straight forward sentence from Kevin Copeland (Power Rangers Beast Morphers) as “Submarine Commander,” or Anthony Brandon Wong (Ghost from THE MATRIX RELOADED) as “Talk Show Anchor” or Vincent Gorce (“SWAT team member,” CHAMELEON 3: DARK ANGEL) as “Monarch Specialist.” It’s economical, and it’s usually information I was looking for. You see it and realize oh yeah, that’s why Toho does it that way. It’s better. We’re catching up. America is on the move.

We noted at the time how GODZILLA VS. KONG took inspiration from LETHAL WEAPON and other action movies. This time Kong gets a beautiful I’m Too Old For This Shit introduction. A battle with a herd of warthog things requires tearing one in half above his head, covering himself in its guts as a show of dominance. After he scares them away he exasperatedly wipes some off, sighs, takes a solemn shower in a waterfall, sits brooding on a cliff. And there are many shots of his scars, like that part where the ex-military guy has to take his shirt off for some reason, and the woman he just met (or at least the camera) notices the record of past battles carved into his flesh.

After his versus battle Kong took the Hollow Earth as his territory, while Godzilla remains on the surface, monitored by the Monarch agency, including Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall, THE GIFT, RESURRECTION), who argues that he saves us alot of trouble by defeating other Titans when they appear. We get a taste when big G surfaces in Rome, batters a lobster thing into green pulp, then curls up for a nap inside the Colosseum. (He’s earned it.)

I remembered Jia (Kaylee Hottle), Ilene’s adopted daughter who is Deaf and speaks with Kong in ASL. I didn’t remember she was the last of the Iwi tribe, and then the movie politely reminded me that the Iwi tribe were the human inhabitants of Skull Island. Thank you, movie. Jia is having trouble in school because of visions, trances and drawing a strange symbol. Unable to get Monarch to believe in mystical shit, Ilene turns to kaiju conspiracy podcaster Bernie Hayes (Henry), who’s bitter about not getting any credit for saving the world last time. He goes along for more evidence, clout and access.

There’s a new character, Trapper, played by Dan Stevens, who starred in Wingard’s THE GUEST, so that makes him his Bruce Campbell. Trapper is a kaiju veterinarian and he wears a Hawaiian shirt, cinematic code for a lovable wildman. When Kong comes crawling out of the portal with a toothache Trapper sedates him, yanks the tooth out with cables, and replaces it with metal. Then they all hop on a drop ship together to investigate why an outpost in the Hollow Earth isn’t responding to calls, where they discover the threat that will require Godzilla to x with Kong to save the planet.

I would not place this group high in the rankings of memorable protagonists for this type of blockbuster, but I enjoy their company. Hall is such a great actress who’s been knocking complicated, unhinged characters out of the park recently, but it’s still fun to see her look very serious and talk about what Godzilla is thinking. Her earnestness about helping Kong, saving the human race and being a good foster mother balances Henry and Stevens being sillier. Jia is the heart of the movie, and benefits from having the most interesting friends, and speaking to them with sign language or telepathy. I like that both at school (in her uniform) and on the expedition (in a graffiti t-shirt) she wears a headband – integrating, but honoring her heritage. And (spoiler) she’s the first Godzilla character I can think of to have a special connection with two different monsters – first Kong, now Mothra. So accomplished, and not even old enough to vote.

(I guess if I have a complaint besides the character of Bernie it’s that Monsterverse Mothra is all head and legs, very little wings, like they’re ashamed of her beauty. But no big deal here, it’s basically a guest appearance.)

Much of the Hollow Earth is unexplored, even by Kong. Wandering into a sinkhole, Kong encounters a young ape, referred to once by Bernie as “Mini-Kong,” but officially named Suko. When I saw him in the trailer, looking up at Kong with his scared eyes, I did not expect that in this scene he would be bait for two adult apes to jump Kong, and then Kong would swing him around by the arm, bashing the motherfuckers with him like he’s a sock full of quarters. I would’ve accepted “cute baby Kong” but “little fucker who Kong immediately uses as a weapon” is obviously better. They’ll get stuck together and warm to each other over time (another classic action movie arc) but not before the kid tries to kill him a couple times. It’s adorable.

Like last time, the story follows Kong the most, with Godzilla an ominous threat instinctively headed this way, someone we get to anticipate until his time to shine (with radiation, now pink, because he’s evolving). Meanwhile Kong gets in a knife fight, hunts a sea monster, uses a giant rib cage as a rickety rope bridge, and has his entire world view upended. He and his friend Jia both learn that they are not in fact the last of their people. Further into the Hollow Earth the big guy is amazed to find a whole bunch of apes like him, but as he gets closer he sees how weak and ragged they are, forced into some kind of slave labor by the Skar King, an ape tyrant who was locked down here in ancient times to prevent him from conquering the surface world.

Who stopped him that time? Godzilla. King of the Monsters isn’t just a title, it’s a responsibility. I don’t know if Kong is aware of what an o.g. Godzilla is. He goes way back. There are cave carvings.

The prisoners are watched over and abused by healthier, burlier overseer apes. Kong sees them beating a guy, helps him up, and knocks out the guard with one punch. Some Billy Jack shit. An amazing touch is that one of the slaves is a fuckin snitch! He runs to tell on Kong, and the guards at first don’t understand and knock him on his ass. He still gets up and goes through with tattling.

Maybe the movie’s biggest innovation is having a villainous kaiju who we can truly despise. You know, Ghidorah’s an asshole, but he’s cool as fuck. Maybe we root against him, but we like him. He’s gold, and has three heads! This fucking Skar King though – as soon as you see the lanky motherfucker lounging on his throne, getting up and waggling around, you’re like “fuck this guy.” And he’s a slavedriver! And a bully! When he sees Kong he immediately zeroes in on his metal tooth, points at it and laughs, pressures the others to fake laugh at his joke.

And then you see that he wears a sash made out of a spinal column that also acts as a whip. And that he keeps a Godzilla-like monster with freeze breath named Shimo chained up. And when he decides to invade the earth he rides on Shimo’s back, standing up and doing vainglorious poses like he’s already having his victory parade. The absolute worst.

The Hollow Earth is fun – lots of weird creatures, the gimmick of the camera flipping between the two different perspectives of up and down never gets old, and we even get an zero gravity kaiju battle – but this is also a Godzilla movie, so we get more Titan battles wrecking international landmarks. It’s funny that Rome has been fucked up in FAST X, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING and now GxK. When they showed the Christ the Redeemer statue I thought “oh no, the poor people of Brazil,” but when I realized tourists at a resort were gonna bear the brunt of it I felt a little better.

Oh yeah, the other thing is that Kong hurts his hand so Trapper gives him a power glove. And he has fun using it. HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN director Jason Eisner says he texted Wingard a photo of Fisto from Masters of the Universe, suggesting the idea, and whether or not that’s the real origin it sums up the philosophy well. Wouldn’t this be cool and absurd? Yes. So they did it.

This is also a movie where Godzilla suplexes Kong. I don’t know how the fuck a guy with giant spikes on his back is willing to drop straight onto his back, but my boy does it. It’s also a movie where Kong throws Skar King and Godzilla whips him with his tail. We get monster team work. We get monsters switching sides. We get monsters being petted like good boys. There are many things I need in life, and these are some of them.

Why are kaiju movies so appealing? I’ve been thinking about it, and this is what I came up with. I think it’s a trifecta of factors. There is the simple love of monsters – Frankenstein, Alien, gremlins, Predator – many of us, from birth, can’t help but get excited about strange creatures, especially when they’re fighting each other. Then you put these particular strange creatures at a massive scale, swatting away fighter jets like mosquitoes, stepping over civilization’s greatest achievements like litter on a sidewalk, so there is an awe, a majesty. They are forces of nature turned into flesh. Gods. They make it easy to believe in ancient legends and prophecies and shit, because it’s right there, we’re looking at it – the thing that makes no sense but came before us and after us, is bigger than us both literally and figuratively, and just smashed the pyramids.

And then at the same time that they are monsters and gods, they are animals. Just like you would with your dog or cat or a cute video from the zoo, you look at Godzilla and Kong and you anthropomorphize them. You ascribe to them thoughts and emotions that might be there, might not be. You don’t expect anything sophisticated from them, so you give them great credit for seeming to have any personality relatable to a human. And if two different species act like they’re friends, running around having fun together? Oh, man. Forget about it. So they’re easy to love.

Obviously there are individuals on this earth who have formed in such a way that they lost those primal instincts, or never had them, so watching giant monsters slap the fuck out of each other is not a high priority for them. They are not necessarily gonna expend the effort to see a movie like this, and I wish them well doing whatever the other things are that people do with their time (I am not familiar). If they are only gonna give a chance to one recent giant monster movie, obviously I would tell them to go for GODZILLA MINUS ONE.

But if you’re like me, and you get giddy for the exploits of monster/god/animals, sometimes with robotic enhancements, then GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE is a must-see.


previous Monsterverse reviews:


my slow chronological viewing of the original Godzilla and Gamera movies, so far:



KING KONG (2005)

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 4th, 2024 at 3:27 pm and is filed under Reviews, Fantasy/Swords, Monster. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire”

  1. It’s amusing how fast these things went from “We gonna give Godzilla his dignity back and make a serious movie that is so serious that we even cut away from Godzilla doing cool Godzilla stuff until the finale, because JAWS and power of imagination and bla and bloop” to “King Kong wears a cyberglove!”

  2. That’s a good summary of the strange contrast that makes big monsters so appealing. When I look at Godzilla in this film I see the personification of the unstoppable power of nature while simultaneously seeing my cat.

  3. That’s a great way to put it, Ishmael. And it reminds me of one of my favorite giant monster movies, GAMERA: REVENGE OF IRIS, where a girl names a monster after her cat that she blames Gamera for the death of.

  4. I don’t want to take away from the majesty of Vern’s Kaiju Manifesto, which is excellent and on-point, but I thought this was wack. I have enjoyed all of the Legacy movies to varying degrees, and I thought GODZILLA VS KONG was by far the best. This one is the worst by a mile, for a stunning variety of reasons which I must apologize in advance for listing in detail here.

    Main problem is it’s just a shockingly terrible script. For most of the running time, I thought it was gonna be one of those bloated-ass movies we got nowadays where you could cut out a whole hour, but when it ended I realized the running time was actually quite economical as far as these things go. Just under two hours? With credits? That’s practically a 50s B-movie by today’s standards. So it’s not that it’s too long, it’s just that the first hour is almost entirely wasted. That hour should have been spent establishing the stakes, setting up first Scar King and then Ice Dinosaur as palpable world-ending threats, the kind you’d need Kong and Godzilla to team up to combat, and even then it’s gonna be a close call. Instead, we don’t even learn about Scar King until the movie’s more than halfway over, and then all we see him do is swing a whip around a little. Same with the Whogivesashitasaurus, whose unbeatable pants-shitting power is established by (checks notes) freezing Kong’s whittle fingies a little bit. The dramatic weight of this late-blooming antagonistical threat (i.e THE PREMISE OF THE MOVIE) is handled almost entirely by a (sigh) prophecy. I fucking HATE prophecies. You want to tell me you wrote yourself into a corner without telling me you wrote yourself into a corner? Whip out a fucking prophecy an hour in. What should have happened is Kong meets these monkey assholes a half-hour in, in the process freeing the Scar King from his captivity. (As it stands, I have no idea how he got out at all. The movie just skips right over that.) Kong gets his ass handed to him, barely escapes with his life, the Scar King and his army follows and wipes a city off the map. Now we gotta nurse Kong back to help and somehow get Godzilla and him to team up. How are we gonna do it? I don’t know but clock is ticking. The ice Dragon is powering up for another Ice Age (why an ape would want this is beyond me but I’ll go with it). This is Screenwriting 101 crap and the movie fails at it utterly.

    So what’s the script doing for that wasted hour instead of its job? Why, letting us spend time with the most annoying sack of assholes you’ve ever met. Brian Tyree Henry’s character needs to be shot into the fucking sun. Every second of screentime he gets is a crime against cinema. (We can save his dope EXTERMINATOR 2 T-shirt, though.) Motherfucker acts like he’s in a Doritos commercial. And that asshole Scottish pilot was even worse. Just obnoxious and grating for no reason. I’ve never been so happy to see a character get DEEP BLUE SEAed. Dan Stevens as Sharlto Copley I was on the fence about. I don’t think he earned the swagger with which he was introduced (He acts like he’s done this maneuver a thousand times before when that’s just not possible) and I kept waiting for him to grow on me. He never did, but at least he wasn’t actively annoying. God bless Rebecca Hall for just barely keeping this thing together by playing it straight down the middle. If there’s ever any sense of stakes at all, it is 100% on her delivery.

    The kid is fine. She keeps her mouth shut, which helps.

    Then there’s the spectacle. There are some good bits. You know I’m gonna enjoy a child being used as a weapon. And the couple of gloppy bits at the beginning were fun. But then it mostly takes place in Hollow Earth, which I’m sad to say is a non-starter. You got all these 500-foot tall creatures running around, but without anything recognizable to compare them to for scale, they could all be 5′ 6″. The last ANT-MAN made the same mistake. In the old Godzilla movies, the worst monster rumbles were the ones that took place in that generic outdoor set that just looked like a huge wasteland. You forgot how big the combatants were supposed to be and started seeing them for what they were: two Japanese guys just trying to get through the day without sweating to death under 200 pounds of rubber. But that at least you could understand as a result of budgetary limitations. Model cities don’t come cheap. But here, it’s all zeroes and ones anyway, so it feels like an unforced error to take away the sense of scope and size that way. Finally, at the end you get some city-based brawling, but it pales in comparison to the awesome Hong Kong climax of the last one.

    This movie is just a step down in every conceivable way. It did not make me smile.

  5. Wow….just wow. I don’t even think I need to read any more reviews of this movie after Vern and Mr. Majestyk just had their say about it. Excellent points made with each piece, and I realize my issues with the human characters in the Monsterverse movies are still gonna be ongoing. I’ve enjoyed the monster-on-monster action, but these movies consistently put the characters that aggravate me most all front and center throughout the running time. Meanwhile, the characters I find most appealing are either killed off or given a couple minutes of screen time and then shunted off into a corner. I’ve had to deal too much with conspiracy dudes wanting to tell me the most preposterous crap in real life as it is, and I don’t want to sit down in front of a movie and have another one all in my face, going on at length with whatever Scooby-Doo shit he feels he’s got to tell me. That ain’t what I paid my movie ticket for, dammit! The Monsterverse guys should learn a thing or two from Godzilla Minus One. Anyway, thank you, Vern and Majestyk, for your time and work putting these reviews down.

  6. Vern’s and Majestyk’s diametrically opposite takes have given me the best reads on this site for the week, although am a little more on Vern’s side for this, for the simple reason that where Creature Features are concerned, my standards start at Rock Bottom. Actually, scratch that. My standards can be found after you hit Rock Bottom, and then burrow 50 feet below that. Gimme gigantic lizards and oversized apes kicking the shit out of each other or teaming up to kick the shit out of another oversized Mutation, shot in broad daylight, edited with clarity and brought to life through some impressive visual effects, and I’m as happy as a pig in shit.

    But I’ll give Majestyk this: It does take a fuckload of time to get to the main antagonist.

    And I’m not sure if it was a good idea to go PLANET OF THE APES in a GODZILLA/KONG joint in a year where we’re getting an ACTUAL PLANET OF THE APES movie.

    Apart from that, I’m good and will take this young, dumb and full of cum Kaiju offering at least until those idiots decide to release a blu ray or stream GODZILLA MINUS ONE for a more cerebral take on the genre.

  7. There’s something really… basic about the filmmaking in these movies that rubs me the wrong way. I think it’s an overreliance on posturing and reaction shots. Oh, and I hate that they feel the need to include the idiots in the human peanut gallery even when they have no place there. It’s most observable here when everyone in the human cast gets a cut away and a chance to offer running commentary on the fight when Godzilla and Kong arrive at Hollow Earth, each one of their comments inane and superfluous. It’s almost as if they were aiming the movies at very young children.

    Other than that… It’s OK, I kind of enjoyed it? I’ve long lost hope any of these films is going to rise above absolute idiocy and botched plotting, but at least in this one they keep the humans in the sidelines and focus on the kaiju action. And I liked the hollow earth setting, at least until they get into the magical crystal city – having another landmass overhead, stupid as it is on so many levels, makes for some pretty striking images.

    The best moment is when they subvert the introduction of Donkey Kong Jr – not the dumb bit where he seems cute and immediately goes feral, that’s way overplayed (last seen in KUNG FU PANDA 4). I mean when Kong uses him as a cudgel; That was inspired, and I’m kind of sorry I spoiled it by reading this before watching the movie.
    Didn’t really like Stevens (and I’ve liked him in almost everything I’ve seen him in) – he felt like a bit of a (more likeable) Poochie character. And Paperboy was insufferable- good thing he was on less than he would have been in the previous movies. I hope he lucks into a better role in his next blockbuster.

    All in all, for me the best one in this series is still SKULL ISLAND, with this one an extremely distant second. Or if we’re talking modern Kaiju movies, GODZILLA MINUS ONE and PACIFIC RIM leave all of these in the dust.
    This one felt like an inoffensively stupid Ronald Emmerich movie. It’s mostly on the right side of dumb, and as unessential as it gets.

  8. “It’s almost as if they were aiming the movies at very young children.”

    Well, I mean… *gestures at the glowing pink dinosaur and the giant ape with a power glove*

    I’m split between Vern and Majestyk. We spend a lot of time on this Journey to the Center of the Earth stuff, with the payoff being a lot of enlightened togas and crystal spires elf types (always a drag) and justification for a fight in zero-G, which seems like trying too hard when you’ve already got a four monster battle royale. It took way too long to get to the actual villain and his plot; likewise Godzilla spent way too long doing the kind of expanded-universe training montage shit that usually would’ve been relegated to a tie-in comic or video game. “Oh, he beat up some miniboss kaiju and leveled up? Scintillating.” I kinda feel like there was an early draft of the movie where Kong got his ass kicked early on and everyone realized they had to recruit Godzilla and that was the thrust of the movie. Either that or this was intended to be a Kong movie and then they decided to have Godzilla in it too and they had one weekend to figure out what he’d been doing. The fact that Skar King has an army of Lesser Kongs working for him ends up being weirdly a non-factor.

    Didn’t much care for Brian Tyree Henry (?). I don’t dislike conspiracy theorist characters, since, uh, I don’t have the hardline “the government never lies to us actually” stance that you guys seem to… but he does seem to mainly be there because Wingard thought it would be fun to hang out with an it actor and not because his character justifies being revisited. I guess he doesn’t learn any lesson and ends the movie still intending to exploit the Iwi for commercial gain? Ok. Final thought: he makes for one too many characters that have plot armor; if they’re going to do a Lost World riff, they needed a few more party members to get et by monsters and not just one obnoxiously unlikable Scot. I guess Jurassic World ruined the idea of a family-friendly monster movie ever killing off a mildly sympathetic character ever again, so here we are.

    But I still do like this movie on the level of it running on cool shit and I think the filmmakers are very sincere in finding this shit cool. They’re not just going “come and get your fanservice, ya fat lards!” like a lot of nerd properties are doing at the moment. I think they’re at a legit good place where they find Godzilla and Kong cool, but they’re not so enamored or defensive that they can’t have fun with it. Now bring on some damn aliens already.

  9. Kaplan, it’s not “The Government never lies to us”. It’s that in recent years the guy who keeps ranting about how the Government sends mind control waves through our television with the help of Aliens and the Illuminati, stopped being funny or cute once we had actual powerful mainstream politicians spreading stories how the Covid vaccine contains microchips, so that Bill Gates, Hilary Clinton and The Jews can easily track down and kidnap our children to drink their blood, and a whole bunch of these nutjobs tried to storm the capitol because some random asshole on the internet told them that the election was rigged and Donald Drumpf is their rightfully elected Führer. The days of Fox Mulder are sadly long gone.

  10. “Well, I mean… *gestures at the glowing pink dinosaur and the giant ape with a power glove*”

    Sure, but plenty of other movies with hugely ridiculous elements – hell, plenty of movies specifically aimed at little children – don’t feel the need to bring out sock puppets. Kids will engage with what they like and let the other stuff zoom over their heads (unless it’s problematic). There’s no need to get all Saturday morning TV.

  11. Vern, your review got me excited to see this. It sounds like great fun.

  12. CJ, my counterpoint to that is that we had a whole wave of 9/11 Truther movies about false-flag terrorist attacks, so it’s a bit rich to say that there’s a problem now that Biden is being targeted instead of Bush. The can of worms is open; the time to object to it was when you were dishing it out, not when you’re taking it.

  13. What on earth makes you think any of us were the kind of people who watched 9/11 truther movies?

  14. My objection to the character has nothing to do with the current widespread belief in idiotic and sometimes hateful conspiracy theories (which I understand Kaplan supports and encourages out of his deep sense of fairness and political balance). I just think it’s a corny joke. I thought Roland Emmerich sucked during both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

  15. I’m counting as 9/11 Truther subtext any movie that has the theme of “someone high-up on the protagonist’s side is secretly supporting or impersonating terrorists in order to promote their political agenda; the actual ‘terrorists’ may not even exist” so Star Trek Into Darkness, V For Vendetta, Spectre, Mission: Impossible 3, Iron Man 3, Non-Stop… it was a really common twist throughout the Bush years and into Obama’s administration. I mean, I couldn’t tell you the last time Bond or Ethan Hunt fought a legit terrorist and not a rogue intelligence agent.

  16. The only one of those anybody ever thought was about 9/11 was INTO DARKNESS, and only because the writer was alleged to be a 9/11 truther, for which he and the movie were criticized. (Also nobody liked the movie anyway.) But even if Tony Stark had yelled “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams!” straight into the camera in each of those I feel that would be no reason to tell CJ he’s not allowed to be concerned about America electing antivaxers and “jewish space laser” believers. Or to accuse him of having made those movies? I guess I don’t follow.

  17. Kaplan, I’m not saying that there weren’t weird or even dangerous conspiracy theories in popculture before. The difference here is that the supposedly likeable conspiracy nut comic relief character like Bryan Tyree Henry in the Monsterverse, is sadly not funny anymore. We are supposed to like him and chuckle at his wild “The government puts chemicals in the water to control the citizens” bullshit, maybe even cheer if he actually does something heroic. And there was a time when such a character was amusing (your mileage may vary though). But sadly by now we have reached the point where these people are way too real and way too dangerous to be funny. In all those truther movies, he would be the villain, who, I don’t know, makes Godzilla stomp on the White House to start a war with Japan. And in reality he would post racist WWII cartoons on Facebook, claiming that The Deep State sold the US to Japan, then maybe grab a gun and start stalking a Democratic politician’s daughter or something.

    And I don’t know any movie that featured someone staging a terror attack where that guy wasn’t supposed to be the villain. Sure, the same assholes who showed up at the Capitol on January 6 probably watched WHITE HOUSE DOWN and thought that James Woods was a true patriot, but the movie didn’t try to convince us that he was a good guy and his bullshit wasn’t delusional. But you could show some people a Bugs Bunny cartoon and they would believe that it’s actually about how crossdressing bunnies try to take Elmer’s guns away.

  18. Kaplan should then also include truther movies as all of those 70s flicks that had deep conspiracies…also the 80s ones. And then probably the ones after 9/11.

    It’s not like conspiracy movies just magically appeared after 9/11., it’s just back then there were maybe a wider variety of things the conspiracy posed as…UFOs sometimes, sometimes not anything too specific really, just a general control thing that you find out is government controlled. After 9/11 it makes for an easy relatable plot point to stick into a dumb blockbuster that does’t need much explaining for people to get it. Much like War of the Worlds was clearly influenced by 9/11, it’s just gonna filter into pop culture.

    I know a number of 9/11 truthers and frankly only some I’d call liberal. Did the blame Bush? Sure but they tend to be people who blame everything on “THEM” no matter the label…a lof of them hate Obama for drones and war, or now Biden for aiding the JOOOOWES. Trump, while they say they also dislike him, gets a pass because he’s a jerkoff asshole who gets shit on (deservingly) so they gotta protect him from the fatcats who read newspapers.

    A lot of them are just kneejerk contrarians and no one really cared much about them because they were losers who lived alone and had eight cats and thought listening to Art Bell was important research. Now there’s a cottage industry for that shit and actually effects real life.

  19. Anyway, I can’t ever imagine wanting to watch this.

  20. “But you could show some people a Bugs Bunny cartoon and they would believe that it’s actually about how crossdressing bunnies try to take Elmer’s guns away.”

  21. It’s an interesting argument. I don’t mind the prevalence of conspiratorial characters in movies as long as you take them seriously. I haven’t seen this movie, but it seems as if they make Brian Tyree Henry believe in “harmless” conspiracy theories. I would think the movie would be livened up if you had a scene of him, say, calling up a police department in the wake of a school shooting “to get some questions answered.”* There is a cost to being a conspiracy theorist, and sometimes it’s worth seeing theorists pay that cost.

    We’ve seen the history of the 20th century. We know there were conspiracies, wars started under false pretexts, media narratives somehow accepted, briefly, as the truth. And we know of people who have investigated on this (see: “Kill The Messenger”, one of my favorite “legit conspiracy” movies), but we also know of dickheads who are “just asking questions”, or who listen to the string cheese horseshit of Alex Jones. There’s a fine line. What was Christian Bale in “The Big Short” if not a conspiracy theorist?

    *(of course, there is the question as to what a school shooting looks like in a world that knows of Godzilla. I was watching that “Punisher” show recently, and they had an episode where a politician was pontificating on gun rights and 2nd Amendment limitations, and I wondered what “gun rights” look like in the MCU, where every week there are supervillains and aliens attackingus, repelled by our un-appointed superpowered protectors).

  22. Tyree is barely a conspiracy theorist in this one. That’s not the reason he sucks. He sucks because he’s a Jar Jar-level annoying comedy relief character who hijacks every scene he’s in with unfunny riffing. Except he’s worse than Jar Jar because Jar Jar actually affects the story at various points, and he helps save the day in the end. Tyree’s character doesn’t even do that. I couldn’t tell you one thing he does in the movie besides complain and yammer. A truly useless character, indicative of a screenplay comprised of nothing but loose ends.

  23. Yeah back 20-30 years ago it was funny to stumble upon the Flat Earth Society webpage and tell your friends about lunatics like this. People were astonished that these fringe groups existed. You could then go deeper into free energy wackos, Breatharians, Heaven’s Gaters, and so on, usually hosted on a Geocities page (no offense Vern) with seven different fonts in five different colors. This was actually a minor hobby of mine back then, digging through these sites that inevitably had links out to other even weirder sites. I saw Heaven’s Gate website before they all killed themselves. Stuff started being less funny after that.

    It is all waaaay less funny now. Somehow people stopped dismissing these idiots and started believing just about any fringe theory that comes along. I don’t know if it is just the general increase in production values on the Internet making stuff more believable, or people with zero critical thinking skills making it online and falling for anything they come across. Perhaps back in the “good old days” they could watch CBS News and be mostly safe and only get ridiculous information from the weird guy at the office on occasion, with nowhere to go and back up your newly acquired disinformation. Now… Major news networks are spreading conspiracy theories purposefully. Broadcasting stuff they know 100% is a flat out lie. And anything you want to believe is backed up somewhere on the Internet, an easy Google search away.

    No longer funny at all.

  24. “What was Christian Bale in “The Big Short” if not a conspiracy theorist?”

    Isn’t the real guy an election truther and a covid conspiracy theorist?

  25. Well, there ya go!

  26. I’m not sure I get the argument being made here. “Conspiracy theories used to be kooky fun, but now they’re too dangerous”? I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but would that sum it up for you?

  27. Well, I’m personally saying that I would prefer a fully-realized conspiracy theorist character, whether they’re engaging with a theory I endorse or don’t. But, if he’s going to be one-dimensional (as he seems to be in Godzilla X Kong), then you should recognize the collateral damage that comes with being one of those people, whether they fashion themselves an actual reporter, or (as is the case with the average conspiracy theorist in our lives) just some jerk who just believes everything he hears from obviously dodgy sources, or someone who just doubts narratives as a default position.

    It’s true about any type of character, but particularly conspiracy theorists — if your approach is just cursory and farcical, it’s doing no favors and championing idiot behavior. And since a movie like this is only going to have a conspiracy theorist as a punchline, best to not bother. I feel about this the way I feel about movies where aliens automatically speak English — I like a lot of those movies, but that very idea renders the whole thing automatically dubious.

  28. To be fair, cooky conspiracists are a tired old trope that was flogged to death by hacks like Roland Emmerich long ago, so I’m not sure how well they’d still play even before current events soured people on them.
    Also, the joke used to be “this guy’s crazy ideas were actually right all along”, which has been run to the ground, but here there’s not even that – it’s as if the writers feel that him being a conspiracist is intrinsically funny. It’s… a really shitty script.

  29. @Glaive so you’re fine with conspiracy theorist characters as long as they’re depicted negatively like being a Sandy Hook Truther?

  30. “fully-realized conspiracy theorist character”

    But….if we all agree NOBODY goes to movies like these to see the Homo Sapient Motherfuckers who, face it, are just wasting precious screen time while we impatiently wait for the next Monster Throwdown, then how fully realized do we want these characters to be? Fully realized means these characters need to be fleshed out, and that comes with increased screen time for these fuckers I never paid ticket money to see in the first place.

    I get the arguments and even agree with most of it. The Real Life Asshole Variant has soured the experience of watching their cinematic equivalent, which is why the equally outlandish Ben Stevens character comes across better, as there’s yet to be a real life documented case of a Hawaiian-Shirt wearing kook who broke into a zoo to perform Simian Dentistry on a gorilla.

    The solution to this isn’t for better human characterization but to limit their screen time even further. That scene where Kong and Scar King are just communicating with grunts and the Ape Colony chimes in? I could watch a WHOLE movie of that. Cause if we want to slate cookie cutter Conspiracy Theory characters in Godzilla/Kong movies, then there’s bigger fish to fry. How about the “Magic Handicapped Child “, the one with a disability whose also the Chosen One who can communicate with Giant Apes? Draw a straight line from this to Boyd Holbrook’s Autistic Son in THE PREDATOR who was also the Chosen One or some shit and could decipher Predator Hieroglyphics cause he’s on the Spectrum? I have one deaf cousin and 2 autistic distant relatives. They struggle daily. But I brush these depictions aside with the same Baseline Understanding: I didn’t pay for my oversized popcorn and D-Box seats in a Dolby ATMOS theatre to see them.

  31. @Kaplan, et al, I think we’re all talking about slightly different stuff.

    Firstly, no, I don’t think that there should be a conspiracy theorist character in “Godzilla X Kong” in general, unless you really commit to the totality of it. And if so, I don’t think it’s really a Godzilla movie or a Kong movie. You can make that movie, and you can make a Giant Monster Movie, but can you really do both? I have my doubts.

    But when I spoke before of the overall experience of being a conspiracy theorist, let me say this: there is no such thing as a healthy conspiracy theorist. What I mean by that is, no matter what you are pursuing, whatever truth you’re trying to chase, it will damage your life.
    1) You will damage relationships with friends and family. They may be embarrassed or uncomfortable around you.
    2) You’re very likely to lose track of what matters in life, as far as interpersonal relationships, professional connections. You will be a miserable person to be around, a la Christian Bale in “The Big Short”. You will thus be unhappy. Because of these tendencies, obviously there will be trust and intimacy issues.
    3) And what if you’re right? How far does that conspiracy go? What kind of danger are you in? Maybe they ARE out to get you.

    Being a conspiracy theorist (which goes beyond simply being a reporter) is no joke. It is an all-consuming pursuit. If they are chasing something which I can believe, then show the costs of such an approach, show how it can turn you into a person you don’t want to be. And if they are chasing some horseshit, then I think it needs to be emphasized that a lot of conspiracy theorists simply want to have a sense of control over their lives, they feel powerless and they think enforcing a narrative onto the world, a narrative only they know, can empower them. Or mix and match those two approaches. The point is not to emphasize how right, or how broken, they are, but to illustrate how complex such beliefs make a life.

  32. Well, to me, it seems like you’re verging on a Hayes Code-like demand that whenever a conspiracy theorist shows up in media, the narrative either discredits or punishes them for the express purpose of making the audience not want to emulate them. Which I just don’t agree with, for anything. I don’t want a rule that says movie criminals can’t get away with their crimes, or good guys can’t smoke cigarettes, or anything else that goes “this is how you can tell a story and this is how you can’t tell a story.”

  33. Well, I’ll tell you why I’d disagree. Because the comparison would be, tell a story where a serial killer doesn’t get caught. Or tell a story where a cop is happy and well-adjusted and has zero thoughts about the role they play in the larger criminal justice system. Saying they should be “discredited or punished” is not an accurate assessment of what I’m saying. Every character, no matter who they are, must be examined as the sum of their actions, and their actions must always have repercussions, negative or otherwise. Being a conspiracy theorist means in a technological age where EVERYONE thinks the answers are a click away means more and more dedication to the cause, and that comes with a price. It’s not an easy life. Anyone who pursues something like that — and I mean someone who is not a reporter — is making a complex and demanding choice. They are making sacrifices, and those sacrifices need to be shown. If not, we’re just watching a fucking cartoon.

    I draw my own line based on the actual cause, because we ALL do — that’s how storytelling works. We boo murderers, but we cheer when the “good guy” kills the villain. We sometimes laugh when a guy is killed, but we get emotional if we see an animal die. So if a conspiracy theorist character is pursuing something in which I find no truth, then of course I’m not exactly going to be invested in his/her well-being. Usually, for someone like me, the movie or show or whatever and I will be on the same side — what is that famous quote? Everybody likes a character if they’re good at their job?

    It’s up to complex storytelling to enliven and complicate these situations. Make character sympathetic and relatable, even if they’re pursuing questionable goals. Hell, I have a real hard time watching cop movies where there’s a virtuous hero because ACAB. That’s just me. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be riveted at a cop movie with unique, human characters.

    I’d recommend a recent movie begging for a Vern review, “The Pizzagate Massacre”. While I was initially disappointed it wasn’t about the very specific pizzagate incident from a few years back, it is largely about modern day qanon types pursuing Illuminati-based conspiracies. And my first thought was to say, oh, this is probably going to be about some assholes. But the movie, a nasty and disreputable little exploitation film on the surface, actually ends up being a peculiar examination of a couple of complicated and interesting theorists getting lost within the rabbit hole. I can’t say the movie’s a must-see, but it was a thorough examination of the types of personalities pursuing an idea I care for very little.

  34. I don’t think anybody is saying there need to be rules against this or that. Just, if I see a movie and it has lazy old tropes that have worn out their welcome long ago and now have doubled back into uncomfortable territory due to the proliferation of morons taking legitimately unhinged views seriously, then I am going to vote with my wallet and avoid such movies.

    I have very little desire to see CIVIL WAR in spite of it being a good director who generally makes good movies.
    There is a (apparently) sizable portion of the US population who has been calling for civil war for the last four years. It doesn’t matter if it is the best fucking movie ever, I am just not in the mood.

  35. Not first hand intel but on Mothra not looking very Mothra – I recall seeing concept art on reddit, a while back that the context was that the hollow earth people were going to have their own kaiju deity, a big alien looking insect thing. This development got retrofitted into just being mothra after test screening results – and new mothra is basically a mix of deleted kaiji’s silhouette (so the replacement would still work with the action scenes, which would presumably limit how much they could change) and mothra classic.

    This would make sense to me! But may also just be reddit bullshit!

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