I had the opportunity this past weekend to finally catch a trio of movies I‘d been wanting to see for some time.

First up was the current blockbuster Godzilla Vs. Kong, the fourth (and final, according to some reports) entry in the Warner Brothers “Monster Universe” series that began with 2014’s Godzilla. Like its predecessors, it is a no-holds-barred roller coster ride; not so much a remake as a complete reimagining of the 1962 Japanese film King Kong Vs. Godzilla, the new film makes good (and then some) on the inherent promise that comes with the notion of a match-up between two of the biggest and most popular monsters in movie history.

Much of it makes little sense whatsoever, but it occurs to me that this is actually kind of the point with a movie like this. It boasts no pretensions of high artistic merit or social commentary; it exists simply to entertain - and that it does, in spades. 

Like the previous three films in this series, there are seemingly chunks of the story that remain for whatever reason untold. There are time gaps between each of the four movies in which events transpire but are touched on and explained only briefly, if at all. 

The series reminds me of one of those big 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzles my mother used to devote hours or even days to putting together, only to find that a couple of pieces were left out of the box by the manufacturer.

In a way, though, that's part of the series' charm. The audience is free to imagine for themselves what those missing pieces might be, and how they fit into the overall puzzle. It’s interactive storytelling the good, old-fashioned way - without the bulky VR headset or overly-priced video game console.

My one genuine complaint about the movie involves not the story itself but, rather, the credits. Like the earlier films in the series, the end credits acknowledge Godzilla’s creators but make no mention whatsoever of Merian C. Cooper or Edgar Wallace, the storytellers who in 1933 gave the world King Kong - the film, the character, the legend. 

Without Kong, Godzilla himself might well not exist. It is a well-established bit of film lore that the creation of Japan’s greatest movie monster was in part inspired by the commercial success of the 1952 re-release of King Kong

I had the same complaint with the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy a few years back, which failed to acknowledge the original novel by Pierre Boulle that launched the Apes film franchise in the first place. One would think that the producers of both series would have seen fit to give at least a tip of the hat in gratitude to the creative minds that resulted in their having the jobs in the first place... 

There are those who might argue that this is picking too fine of a nit, and perhaps they’re right. But as both a lifelong fan and an author myself, I feel that the original creators deserve their due. 

The good news is that, despite the lack of proper credit to Kong’s creators, the new film does acknowledge previous incarnations of the great ape’s legend in other ways. One of my favorites is a character named Guillermin - presumably named after famed Hollywood director John Guillermin, whose filmography includes having helmed the 1976 Kong remake by producer Dino De Laurentis. 

And then there's the fact that the new film’s leading man, Kyle Chandler, also co-starred in Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong in 2005…

Credits aside, the bottom line is that Godzilla Vs. Kong is a fun, rip-roaring action-adventure that requires nothing more from the viewer but to simply sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Also on my viewing list last weekend was News Of The World, the 2020 western adventure starring two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks and talented newcomer Helena Zengel. 

Set in post-Civil War Texas (the opening scenes take place just a few miles down the road from us in Wichita Falls), the film - based on a novel by Paulette Jiles - features Hanks as a former soldier who now makes his living going from town to town, reading newspaper stories to audiences eager to hear about what’s going on in rest of the world. 

Hanks’ character finds himself unexpectedly tasked with the responsibility of delivering a young white girl who has been raised by the Kiowa tribe to members of her actual family. She speaks no English and he speaks no Kiowa, but over the course of their journey together the two of them form a bond that ultimately changes both of their lives for the better.

The story touches on most of the familiar western movie tropes - there is the obligatory shootout with a band of desperadoes, for example, as well as other dangers both man-made and natural - and these are handled with an eye towards honoring some of the greatest films in the genre.

At the same time, however, the story manages to be contemporary as it touches upon certain issues that America is still dealing with today. In many ways it is the perfect western for its time. 

Not surprisingly, Hanks adds to the growing list of outstanding performances that has made him perhaps the greatest actor of his generation. (It’s sometimes hard to believe that this is the same guy who initially shot to fame clowning around in drag on the old TV series Bosom Buddies). 

But the real joy of this film is young Zengel, whose performance matches Hanks’ beat for beat. Hers is a screen presence that is so natural that at times you forget it's only a movie; I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this talented young lady.

The third and final film I caught up with over the weekend was WW84, starring Gal Godot in her second outing as the comic book heroine Wonder Woman. 

As sequels go it is something of a mixed bag, improving on its predecessor in some ways but not quite measuring up in others. Godot’s performance here is as good as her previous appearance as Princess Diana, and Chris Pine evokes his share of smiles in what is essentially a thankless role as a sort-of reincarnated Steve Trevor.

But Pedro Pascal’s villainous Maxwell Lord is so lame that he wouldn't have warranted a cliffhanger in the 1960s’ Batman TV series. The character played by Kristin Wiig (an actress who I admittedly have yet to warm up to in general) is supposed to be a major player but at times almost seems as if she was merely tacked on as an afterthought. And the script tries mightily to make an “important comment” about society, but the effort falls flat. 

It’s not a horrible movie, by any means. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it is one of the more enjoyable entries in the recent theatrical films based on the DC Comics characters. (Although I’ll also point out that this isn’t necessarily saying much, given how low the bar had been set in most of those previous entries.)

But at the end of the day, the best things about WW84 are the prologue sequence featuring the future Wonder Woman as a child, and a brief but enjoyable cameo at the end of the film that will bring a smile to comic book and TV fans of a certain age. (Like me, for instance.) 

It is a scene that is well worth the wait - but at the same time leaves one wishing that the rest of the film had been as much fun. 

(Column copyright © 2021 by John A. Small)