Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, directed by Adam Wingard, is the latest entry in the MonsterVerse franchise. It follows up the explosive showdown of Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) with an all-new cinematic adventure, pitting the almighty Kong and the fearsome Godzilla against a colossal undiscovered threat hidden within our world, challenging their very existence – and our own. Now showing in Sale Cinemas.

The fifth film in the MonsterVerse series has arguably the best monster action in the entire series, but it’s a shame you have to slog through that first hour to get there. It’s very disappointing, because it had the potential to be great.

The previous film, Godzilla vs Kong is a much more compelling overall package thanks to its simple concept. The American Godzilla films and Kong: Skull Island built up to this epic clash of the 20th century titans where one would prevail as the ultimate winner, and there were hashtags for #TeamKong and #TeamGodzilla.

This new movie only appears to exist because of its predecessor’s unexpected success. The premise this time is the two big bad beasts team up to fight a larger threat, but they essentially already did that too.

They also brought back a few of the human characters from the last movie too, but why? Rebecca Hall’s character, Dr Ilene Andrews (you probably won’t remember any of their names) has to be the least compelling human protagonist in this series to date – why on Hollow Earth did they bring her back?

Brian Tyree Henry’s conspiracy podcast shtick had already run its course, and alongside Dan Stevens, is only here for comic relief. Kaylee Hottie returns as the young girl Jia, and she’s the only one with an actual compelling emotional arc, but her ending is about as cliché as it possibly gets. Unfortunately, catching up with these small fries takes up a ton of screen time, and they often say so much, yet interest so little. Their main purpose is to provide exposition when it’s most convenient.

The film finally makes its mark when Kong encounters a rival tribe. There’s no dialogue – just giant animals making noises, grunts, fighting and gesturing to each other, but it’s very well done. The main villain is a giant primate called Skar King and I found him surprisingly threatening as they determine who is the top dog. But the one issue with these scenes is that they don’t appear as big without the humans present – and the appeal of these films are the unfathomable size of these creatures.

You might wonder where Godzilla fits into this – turns out he’s mostly a side character. But once he does show up, the fun finally starts. The final fight in particular reminded me of the Godzilla fighting video game I played in the early 2000s as a kid, where you could battle as the kaiju monsters in the city as buildings collapsed around you. This is what the MonsterVerse is all about!

I don’t want to compare this film to the recent Japanese hit, Godzilla: Minus One, which has found acclaim worldwide thanks to its well-crafted human characters dealing with trauma from WW2. A silly and expensive action franchise like the American MonsterVerse can coexist, but they can’t make us sit through boring human storylines just to get to the action. Other kaiju movies, including Minus One, Pacific Rim and other Godzilla and King Kong movies have presented far more interesting human characters, so why can’t this franchise figure it out?

Would I watch this again? Sure – on streaming, and after I skip the first hour or so. Of course, a film like this certainly benefits from the big screen treatment, so if you’re willing to put up with an underwhelming first hour, the final fights are the absolute joyride you were hoping for.

Rather than bring Godzilla and Kong back together for a third time, I think they should try something new – maybe give Rodan or Mothra their own movie.

Future regional reporters Stefan Bradley (left) and Tom Parry at a Godzilla vs Kong early screening in March 2021.