Kong: Skull Island

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Wow, actors really are smaller in person.

“Kong: Skull Island” is about people barging into a place they’ve never been before, dropping bombs to see how solid the land is, then acting indignant when the local wildlife responds defensively. It’s about humans punishing nature for being nature, and about bureaucrats embarking on research expeditions motivated by revenge.

Fine, fine. It’s also about giant animals, notably an ape of unusual size. A quasi-reboot of “King Kong” (minus the New York parts), “Skull Island” is a fleet-footed adventure movie with breathless action sequences punctuated by horror. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) from a much-rewritten screenplay credited to three other guys, its creaky dialogue and questionable story are counteracted by visceral, thrilling scenes of zoological mayhem. There is a certain kind of moviegoer who wants to see huge monsters squash humans and fight each other, and “Kong: Skull Island” is happy to indulge them, not even bothering to play coy about revealing the beasts. We get a good, clear look at Kong before the movie’s two minutes old.

After a brief 1944 prologue, the year is 1973, as attested by the generic early-’70s rock soundtrack (“Ziggy Stardust,” “White Rabbit,” a few Credence Clearwater Revival tunes, Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” — all the usual suspects). New satellite images have revealed a previously unexplored island in the South Pacific, just waiting to be mapped, surveyed, and exploited (that part isn’t said aloud) by whoever gets to it first, which the men in Washington D.C. hope will be America. The geological team sent by the Feds is joined by Bill Randa (John Goodman), a government scientist with crackpot theories about What’s Out There, theories whose pots will shortly seem un-cracked indeed.

To help with the expedition, Randa recruits a tracker, Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), the best in the business, etc., the kind of cocksure adventurer who can only be found in seedy bars in the Orient. The group also needs a military escort and expert pilots to get through the daunting weather system that surrounds the island, so they swing by Vietnam to pick up Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his squadron of jocular helicopter bros, who sass one another in the manner of war movies before most of them are gruesomely (spoiler alert) killed. Finally, there’s Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a respected photojournalist who’s tagging along because she suspects this is more than an ordinary surveying mission, and because what’s a Kong story without a blonde?…

[Continue reading at Crooked Scoreboard.]

B (1 hr., 58 min.; PG-13, a lot of action violence, some of it fairly graphic, plus a little profanity.)