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Timed to play before theatrical showings of Warner Bros. Discovery’s “Wonka” and/or “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” the just-released teaser for “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” offers the first look at what will be the fifth film in the nearly decade-old MonsterVerse franchise.
By the way, the title is an old-school kaiju title implying a team-up. However, it’s also modern online slang implying a “ship” or a romantic relationship between two characters. It’s legitimate in terms of kaiju franchise lingo. It’s also a good-natured nod to those who would like to see King Kong and Godzilla be more than, to quote the Michael Jackson/Stevie Wonder duet, just good friends.
The trailer gives us a sweep from modern times back to the pyramids, with voiceover intoning, “For most of human civilization, we believed that life could only exist on the surface of our planet.”
“What else were we wrong about?”
In an eerie introduction to the underground world of monsters, we follow our human characters down under the Earth’s crust, as we hear, “This world has more secrets than we could possibly imagine.”
We see another warlike ape, with an entire civilization appearing to back him up, ready to attack. As we hear, “Kong can’t stop this on his own,” we get the response: “He won’t be alone.”
That’s when Godzilla awakens, breaking through the nice — trading in blue radiation for pink this time around.
Adam Wingard returns to direct this installment. Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry and Kaylee Hottle will reprise their roles from “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Wingard is also set to reunite with his “The Guest” leading man Dan Stevens, as well as Fala Chen and Rachel House. Simon Barrett is writing the screenplay. Mary Parent, Alex Garcia, Eric McLeod, Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni will produce.
“Godzilla Vs. Kong” was the opening shot in the slow COVID-era theatrical recovery. It debuted in theaters and on HBO Max just as vaccines were being distributed. WB (and the entire theatrical industry) pitched it as a definitive “This is what we go to the movies for!” blockbuster.
It was also one of the big COVID-era releases that arguably performed better at the box office than it might have had it opened in conventional circumstances. It was coming off the underwhelming “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Most in-development sequels to flop predecessors don’t magically hit paydirt next time out.
Yes, the hook of Godzilla throwing down against King Kong was more general audience-appealing than Godzilla versus King Ghidorah. Still, there was a strong possibility that “Godzilla Vs. Kong” might have taken a tumble on par with “Justice League” (-25% from “Batman v Superman”) and earned under $300 million. Instead, the film earned $100 million domestically and $470 million worldwide, saving the movies.
Now the MonsterVerse has goodwill from the last installment. Moreover, Wingard’s ’80s action movie himbo version of King Kong is a proven crowd-pleaser, returning in the new trailer with his axe from his Godzilla confrontation — and a giant mechanical glove that looks like something ripped off a Transformer.
Will “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” be a Shane Black-style action comedy with the dinosaur and the monkey teaming up to stop drug runners? Probably not, even if it’s what we deserve.
Legendary and WB have played their big trump card, namely Kong and Zilla beating the hell out of each other. What else do they have beyond more of that, and will audiences care to find out? Stay tuned for when the film opens on April 12, 2024.
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