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‘Godzilla x Kong’ equals a monster collab that’s Titan-ic in all the wrong ways

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Looking for a bright side, “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” might be the most geeked-out entry in this modern Monsterverse, and there’s plenty of gigantic mayhem. Unfortunately, the human characters have never mattered less, other than trying, ineffectively, to explain the chaos that ensues, as multiplication equals subtraction in a sequel that’s Titan-ic in all the wrong ways.

After putting a “vs.” between Godzilla and Kong back in 2021, the obvious next iteration would be some kind of Titan team-up, which requires conjuring a threat worthy of that challenge. Establishing that means venturing into a previously unexplored quadrant of Hollow Earth, where Kong is fending off other monsters while Godzilla patrols the surface, keeping the peace and doing lots of property damage in the process.

Meanwhile, scientist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a survivor of Kong’s Skull Island who shares a bond with the big guy, sense a disturbance in the, um, whatever. So Ilene enlists podcaster Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry, again given the thankless role of comic relief) and swashbuckling monster veterinarian Trapper (Dan Stevens, a long way from “Downton Abbey”) to journey with them into the unknown.

In one of those seemingly welcome surprises that goes sideways, Kong discovers he’s not the only giant ape left, which turns into a less-than-happy reunion. In fact, the nefarious nature of the new apes will force Kong to try somehow recruiting his fellow “alpha titan,” while the giant lizard busily stomps around thwarting threats and charging himself up like an oversized Energizer Bunny.

In an encore behind the camera, “Godzilla vs. Kong” director Adam Wingard and a trio of credited writers probably make the right decision in treating all this with grave earnestness, which doesn’t render most of the situations, dialogue and the climactic encounter any less laughable.

Inevitably, as these movies pile up, along with offshoots like the Apple TV+ series “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters,” the mythology becomes denser. Yet with the benefit of hindsight, the wisest move here frankly would have been to dispense with the people entirely, provide a few subtitles and just go straight to the battles, jettisoning what meager plot there is.

All that really leaves are the special effects, which are made-for-Imax fine, though this modern rendition of Kong as a very human-ish biped has never looked quite right, a flaw that’s only multiplied. Give everyone involved some credit for the nausea-inducing fates met by certain monsters, a genus that can be dispatched quite harshly and still get away with a PG-13 rating. (The film is distributed by Warner Bros., like CNN, a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.)

Presumably, the next Godzilla-Kong collaboration will offer another playful variation of the title, something along the line of “hearts,” or maybe a division symbol. “Godzilla x Kong” doesn’t multiply or divide, exactly, but in its tilt toward only those who are extremely invested in this increasingly silly franchise, it doesn’t conquer, either.

“Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” premieres March 29 in US theaters. It’s rated PG-13.

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