Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island ★★½

Very frustrating experience—immense Kong, inept humans. Gonna start off with the best scene as Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" becomes distorted because Kong destructively throws a bunch of helicopters like they're fucking ragdolls. And his towering size against the torrid sunlight is pure awesomeness.

Even the carnage with the screeching spider, giant lizards, massive octopus and limb-ripping pterodactyls are thrillingly intense.

Too bad that every single scene where the humans are isolated is plain turgid—not only because they're all prone with undefined characteristics, but mainly because they're given some of the goofiest dialogue I can recall in a modern blockbuster.

Literally the first words in Kong: Skull Island come from petulant conspiracy theorist Bill Randa (John Goodman) as he steps out of a cab and bellows "There'll never be a more screwed-up time in Washington!" while arrogant U.S. military commander Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) exclaims such golden nuggets as "I'm the cavalry!" and "Kill this son of a bitch!"

Amongst them is British mercenary tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) who's been touted as some barbaric swordsman. And for almost the entire film, he's essentially nonexistent—until the obligatory sub-300 moment arrives in hilarious slo-mo where he slices n' dices through killer birds like he's Leonidas.

So my faith tried to lay in "antiwar photographer" Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who's one of the few females in the group. Considering there's numerous writers (Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly), they had ample opportunity to create a subversive gender dynamic for her. Instead, Larson's reduced to just frighteningly gawking from a distance and striking a shoehorned empathy with Kong.

Basically my mindset changed from legitimately thrilled in each action set-piece and disastrously groaning when it decided to take a breather. Which is disappointing, as I was so emotionally invested in Jordan Vogt-Roberts' great coming-of-ager The Kings of Summer, but he struggles to elicit much avail here. [The only kind of memorabilia that he amusingly chooses is a Nixon bobblehead and a portable record player].

Around the halfway mark, WWII soldier Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) meets up with the team of explorers. And his presence might be the only bit of personal interest that has some worth—he's been stranded on Skull Island for 30 years, lives with a group of unsmiling Buddhist monks and desperately wishes to return home.

When all is said and done, I was mostly enamored by Kong. And he's given a noble treatment. He roars and rages. He's the God of the land. He'll only destroy when threatened. That's always been the ancient myth for him and he's reworked in an enduring way.

Ultimately, this film is like stealing thunder from a thrill-seeker. It's gobsmacking how little I cared about these civilians who are in dire need of rescue. Which can all be attributed to worthless arcs and loopy writing. A shame.