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 the 'BDF', or 'Big, Dumb and Fun’ and - let's be clear - it'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 ourselves mentally.
More often than not, the BDF rears its head around holiday seasons in the form of disaster movies and/or alien invasions, with the recent offering of San Andreas, Pacific Rim and perhaps even the first Transformers movie, for example, all successfully finding that critical balance between the big, the dumb and the overtly fun. 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 2).
In Kong: Skull Island, we're happy to say, that balance is back. Obviously it's a BIG movie - afterall, it is Kong were talking about, and it's also pretty 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 (we're not helicopter pilots, but if we suddenly discovered a high-rise sized gorilla and watched it grab then hurl seven of our teammates' helicopters to their fiery death, we'd think twice about heading straight towards it instead of just getting the hell out of there).
Most importantly, though, this is a fun film. The action is well-paced and, thankfully, easy to follow despite its heavy reliance upon special effects, the one-liners are solid enough and John C Riley’s character (a downed WWII pilot who never escaped the 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: Kong. Actually, ‘big' is an understatement. ‘Colossal, more like. In stark contrast to the original 30’s 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 islands' many monsters, it’s like a street fighter versus ninjas: brute strength and stamina against speed and agility, rendering the humans, for the most part, merely spectators.
Of those humans, Kong: Skull Island boasts an impressive cast that includes: Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, John C Riley and Samuel L Jackson, who all lend their considerable weight to a script that probably deserved lesser actors. Interestingly, it also features Chinese star Jing Tian, who recently appeared in another film by the same production house (Legendary), namely 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, by which time, hopefully, they’ll have developed a more considered means of including international cast members than the awkward crow-barring that occurred here.
Big, dumb and undeniably fun - Kong: Skull Island is an entertaining, old-school action/adventure romp.