Big, dumb and fun, Kong is an exhilarating, old-school action romp.
We've talked before about the rapidly expanding genre of films we like to call 'BDF', or 'big, bumb and fun'. And let's be clear, that label's in no way intended as an affront. On the contrary, when done right, we love the BDF because it satisfies that very basic need every now and then to be entertained without having to tax our brains.
More often than not, the BDF rears its head around holiday seasons in the form of disaster and/or alien invasion movies, with San Andreas, Pacific Rim and perhaps even the first Transformers all finding the right balance between the three key ingredients. When it goes the other way, however, usually on account of too much emphasis on 'the big' at the expense of 'the fun', these films quickly become joyless affairs that achieve little more than wasting your time and money. Think Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad or Independence Day: Resurgence.
In the seventies-set Kong: Skull Island, we're happy to say, that balance is back. Obviously it's a BIG movie – afterall, this is King Kong were talking about. It's also undeniably dumb. The dialogue is consistently bogged down in exposition, there's not a great deal of plot to speak of, and the characters make some pretty bizarre choices throughout. I'm no helicopter pilot, but if I suddenly discovered a high-rise sized gorilla and watched it hurl seven other choppers to their fiery death, I'd probably get the hell out of there, not fly directly towards it.
Most importantly, though, this is a fun film. The action is well-paced and easy to follow despite director Jordan Vogt-Roberts' heavy reliance upon special effects. The one-liners, meanwhile, are solid enough, and John C. Reilly's downed WWII pilot, who never escaped the eponymous island, steals every scene in which he appears. It is, in short, an old-school monster movie complete with heroes, heroines, clowns and grizzly old soldiers.
Then, of course, there's the big guy himself, although in truth the word 'big' doesn't really do him justice. In stark contrast to the original film, there's no caging this fella. He's a sixty-story silverback with a menacing glare and a mean right hook. When Kong battles the island's many monsters, it's like a street fighter up against ninjas: brute strength and stamina versus speed, stealth and agility. The humans, by comparison, are rendered little more than spectators.
Of those humans, Kong: Skull Island boasts an impressive cast including Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson, all of whom lend their considerable weight to a script that probably deserved less. Interestingly, it also features Chinese star Jing Tian, who recently appeared in another film by the same production house: The Great Wall. Tian's inclusion, while only minor, allows Chinese distributors to smack her image on all their posters and, potentially, open up a giant market that might otherwise be inaccessible to a US blockbuster such as this. One suspects this trend will see a rapid surge in the coming 12 months. Hopefully they develop a more nuanced means of including international cast members than the awkward crow-barring that occurred here.