Monster mishmash: Godzilla reverts to a less scary, pinker version in hodgepodge action sequel ‘x’

“Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” — 2 stars

You gotta feel sorry for Japan’s most beloved atomic bomb metaphor, Godzilla.

Recently, he won his first Academy Award for a career-high performance (as a visual effect) in the single best motion picture of his long, radioactively hot career, “Godzilla Minus One.”

His fluid, animated performance emanated mystery and menace. It reclaimed the modern-day dragon’s rightful place in the pantheon of classic, truly frightening monsters.

Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) inexplicably trusts Bernie Hayes (a comedy relief know-it-all conspiracy theory buff reprised by Brian Tyree Henry) to save the surface Earth in “Godzilla x King Kong: The New Empire.” Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

In Adam Wingard’s “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” the beast with fiery halitosis reverts to the quasi-heroic, less fearsome persona of the visually engaging, yet problematic “Godzilla vs. King Kong” (2021), also directed by Wingard.

Both movies come equipped with a hodgepodge of sci-fi expository technobabble, strange mysticism, convoluted mythologies and strained replications of human emotions.

“X” also suffers from continuity challenges, such as Godzilla waking up from a nap inside the Roman Colosseum, knocking it down as he exits. Later, the Colosseum has been magically restored to its earlier state of natural deterioration. (Wingard’s cat curled up in a cat bed inspired him and production designer Tom Hammock to put this in the movie.)

Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) joins her adopted daughter Jia (reprised by Kaylee Hottle) to help a giant ape in “Godzilla x King Kong: The New Empire.” Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Concentrating on sheer action, “X” stages more than a simple rematch of Godzilla with his hair-ied co-star, originally paired in the cheesy “King Kong vs. Godzilla” (a 1963 USA release). The two towering titans reluctantly join forces to save the surface Earth from a powerful enemy, a brutal Hollow Earth ape boss called the Skar King.

(Wingard states in the production notes: “He’s the quintessential evil dictator, and civilizations around the world and throughout history have their version of an evil dictator.” Should we read anything into Skar King’s fur being bright orange?)

Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), working for a monster research group called Monarch, returns here with her adopted daughter Jia (reprised by an adorable Kaylee Hottle), a deaf orphan found on Kong’s home turf, Skull Island.

Also returning, Bernie Hayes, a comedy relief know-it-all conspiracy theory buff reprised by a game Brian Tyree Henry. Inexplicably, Andrews chooses him to be her main adviser and sidekick, but three screenwriters carefully sidestep a prime opportunity to comment on the role conspiracy theorists play in current politics.

Trapper (Dan Stevens) joins Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) to save surface Earth from a bad creature in “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.” Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

British actor Dan Stevens joins the cast as Trapper, an amiable, all-purpose, cocky good guy who likes to go into action while playing pop songs. He knows more than an omniscient voice-over narrator. He can fly helicopters, pull and replace a large, infected ape tooth and serve as a human Google search on any topic necessary to propel the plot.

Meanwhile, Godzilla has apparently been working out and now displays a slimmer, more muscular physique. He also glows radioactive pink.

An older, wiser and lonelier Kong sports a graying beard and sad eyes as a middle-aged monster whose new cyborg-like metal hand can deflect Godzilla fire like Wonder Woman’s bracelets.

A cute, bratty Hollow Earth kid gorilla called Suko comes into Kong’s lonely life. Suko resembles a cheap, less-detailed animated character from a 1990s video game stuck in the “uncanny valley” between cartoons and his more photorealistic co-stars.

Bernie Hayes, a comedy relief know-it-all conspiracy theory buff reprised by a game Brian Tyree Henry, inexplicably becomes a wise counselor and trusted science expert in the amusingly ridiculous “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.” Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

If some of the gargantuan gladiator battles look suspiciously like professional wrestlers at work, that would be a nod to RKO’s original 1933 “King Kong.” Directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack both worked as professional wrestlers and used their experiences to stage the classic stop-motion battle between a giant gorilla and a Tyrannosaurus rex.

The 13th King Kong movie, “X” is also the 38th Godzilla feature, an odd mix of fantasy, action and nonsense, capped by a head-scratching choice of songs, Badfinger’s “Day After Day.”

You can call this movie “Godzilla Minus One More Oscar.”

• • •

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dan Stevens, Brian Tyree Henry, Kaylee Hottle

Directed by: Adam Wingard

Other: A Warner Bros. theatrical release. Rated PG-13 for violence. 115 minutes

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