Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island ★★★

There's no shame in an acceptable monster adventure with no pretensions of rewriting the formula. It may seem like damning with faint praise, but I genuinely liked Kong: Skull Island for not trying to razzle-dazzle me with intricate plotting or nuanced characters, instead embracing old-fashioned jungle adventure tropes (while, um, validating the Hollow Earth theory) and sticking with them. The backbone is not too different from that of something like White Pongo, with the real innovations coming from seventy years' worth of advances in editing/pacing, fake ape effects and basic - I do mean BASIC - racial awareness. A big budget B-movie skeleton shows though in its careless, cliché-packed dialog, which is at least good for an occasional laugh. None of the performances of these stock characters are particularly good or bad, nothing unexpected happens, the Vietnam War-era setting adds no weight and is pretty much there to justify the predictable classic rock soundtrack, aka multiple CCR songs. Although director Jordan Vogt-Roberts seems to have previously specialized in indie dramedies, the filmmaking is appropriately anonymous enough that this well-oiled machine could have been steered by anyone.

I really wasn't expecting much, but I was pleased to see modern high-tech schlock this indulgent of genuine giant monster mayhem. Kong looks great and the Skullcrawlers are cool beasties, too. Like another recent semi-well-received franchise piece, Alien: Covenant, Skull Island charmed me by keeping its mythmaking to a minimum in favor of simple genre entertainment. At the very least, this is a more satisfying creature feature than Gareth Edwards' self-important Godzilla deigned to be. Hopefully, it portends more fun to come from this stupidly named "MonsterVerse."

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