Review: ‘Godzilla x Kong’ franchise showing diminishing creative returns

(Courtesy/Legendary Entertainment)

Don’t confuse Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” with a sequel to last year’s excellent “Godzilla Minus One.”

The latter is a Japanese-produced, Oscar-winning triumph by director Takashi Yamasaki that stands among the best horror/monster films ever made.

The former is just another sequel in a mediocre franchise that offers low-level spectacle and a degree of fun that’s influenced as much by professional wrestling and toy production as it is by the desire to make a meaningful movie.

Some would call it big, dumb fun or a popcorn movie.

I don’t necessarily disagree. However, maybe WB went to the well one time too many with this MonsterVerse matchup?

Or possibly the studio should have placed a little more distance between this kaiju throw down and director Adam Wingard’s previous film in the series “Godzilla vs. Kong” from 2022?

The movie should have been a summer release, but I’m guessing WB knew it offered weak sauce and wanted to rush it into theaters before the competition got too stiff.

While I wouldn’t recommend the movie to anyone but an ardent King Kong or Godzilla fan, there is some fun to be had with the movie on a gut level.

The monster mayhem is decent once the film gets down to the final-act battle royal between our gargantuan heroes and several other kaiju characters who make their monstrous presence known.

The movie is more Kong-themed this time out, picking up on threads from the previous movie concerning the Hollow Earth where scads of gigantic apes and other beasts dwell.

Kong adopts a reddish-colored, young ape there who happens to be the son of the film’s chief antagonist, a grizzled ruddy ape who has enslaved a tribe of fellow simians. This creates a feud with devastating consequences that ultimately draws Godzilla and other Titans into the fray.

As with the other films in the franchise, there is a human plot that somewhat parallels the stories of the monster featuring Rebecca Hall as Dr. Ilene Andrews and her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last surviving member of Skull Island’s Iwi natives.

Dan Stevens plays a smart-aleck veterinarian who does some interesting dental and prosthetic work on Kong. Brian Tyree Henry returns as conspiracy theorist and podcaster Bernie Hayes. Their characters have excellent chemistry, providing verbal sparring and interplay that was my favorite aspect of the movie beyond the final monster fight.

Look, there is some fun to be had with this movie on a sophomoric level, but it’s really just more of the same if you’ve seen any of the other MonsterVerse movies.

Hollywood and now streaming networks have become so deft at offering this type of spectacle that it’s not enough just to show several giant monsters beating the CGI snot out of each other if you want to excite me as a movie buff.

I need more meat on those story bones, bolstered by actors who aren’t just going through the motions. Some fuzzy special effects make this a movie only for hardcore fans of the franchise.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 55 min.
Grade: C-

New in Local Theaters – March 29, 2024

  • Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (PG-13) 1 hr. 55 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight
  • In the Land of Saints and Sinners (R) 1 hr. 46 min. (trailer)
    Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle
  • A Cat’s Life (PG) 1 hr. 23 min. (trailer)
    Malco Pinnacle

Classic Corner – The Green Pastures

With Sunday being Easter, Turner Classic Movies is celebrating with a slew of Easter-themed pictures ranging from dramas depicting the life of Christ like the 1961 version of “The King of Kings” which plays at 10 p.m. and 1965’s “The Greatest Story Ever Told, which covers the same material at 2 p.m.

Mixed in with those and other dramas, TCM shoehorned in a couple of musicals for good measure.

The first musical “The Green Pastures” begins TCM’s Easter-viewing slate at 5:15 a.m. The Easter Bunny might be the only one who’ll be awake in time to watch this 1936 film based on the 1928 novel by Roark Bradford “Ol’ Man Adam an’ His Chillun.”

The movie, which uses racial stereotypes, is one of just six films that feature an all-African American cast during the Hollywood Studio era. The old-time gospel tunes are remarkably irresistible.

The film features stories from the Old Testament as depicted through the eyes of Southern, African-American folklore. It’s a really interesting concept that gets to the core of the Sunday School stories that many have cherished since childhood.

Some will find the movie troublesome, but it features a host of entertaining performers such as Rex Ingram, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Myrtle Anderson, and Edna Mae Harris. The film is an entertaining musical, which drives home the point that the golden-age of film would have been better served by more diverse casting choices.

Easter Parade

The second musical “Easter Parade,” which airs at 7 p.m. really has very little to do with Easter other than the title song. That’s O.K. because the film is still delightful, if you enjoy classic Hollywood musicals.

The 1948 Charles Walters’ film features Judy Garland at her apex, Fred Astaire while he was still near the top of his game, and 14 wonderful songs by the great Irving Berlin.

Astaire had announced his retirement from the big screen, but Gene Kelly, who was supposed to co-star with Garland before breaking his ankle playing volleyball, talked Astaire into taking the part. Thankfully Astaire continued to make movies for two more decades and TV appearances into the 1970s.

The movie also features Peter Lawford as Astaire’ rival for Garland’s affection, and Ann Miller as Astaire’s dance partner, whom Garland replaces in the film after Miller goes big time.

The movie won an Oscar for Best Music Score, and Berlin’s songs provide the perfect vehicles to spotlight Garland and Astaire’s unique talents.