Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island ★★★★

A thrilling fistful of popcorn entertainment, "Kong: Skull Island" is an exhilarating adventure film. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the monster-movie epic is an effects-driven marvel that eventually offers enough personality to stand out.

Revolving around an expedition to an uncharted island in the early 1970s, "Kong: Skull Island" finds a group of intrepid military men and various, assorted explorers running headlong into the island's inhabitants. Those inhabitants include one great ape called Kong, and he is unhappy with this particular gang of interlopers.

The story follows typical adventure beats, but its man vs. nature conflict is especially robust. Kong is a guardian of Earth, keeping the real monsters at bay. His destruction would be pure tragedy, unleashing all manner of loss upon humankind. Though the narrative may attempt to offer allegories to historical conflicts, the internal comparison of Kong to the environment, to ecology, to balance is potent.

The production is polished but revels in the sweat and dirt of its settings. Its aesthetic is verdant and natural; its jungle landscape both dangerous and inviting. Effects are strong, and the computer-generated beasties can be magnificent.

Vogt-Roberts keeps the film moving an acceptably raging pace, but the film rumbles through mediocre stretches until a certain human character shows up and imbues the film with personality. The cast is solid, but this character (whom shall remain unnamed to avoid spoilers) grants the film a sense of humor and heart that elevate the entire affair. Oh, and Kong is awesome.

Though "Kong: Skull Island" is a sharper screenplay and Williams-esque score away from being truly great, it is an unabashedly fun ride. A capable cast and thrilling action beats combine with a sensibility that is not afraid to quote other works of adventure cinema, making something exhilarating and clever. It is an all-out, grand-scaled adventure blast.

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