Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island

Safely gonzo lost world creature feature given a budget and cast it doesn’t really deserve (or know how to use) thanks to its position as a hastily-built franchise entry. A better Saturday matinee flick than either Legendary Godzilla flick to date, though that’s an exceedingly low bar.

Hiddleston seems to be channeling Adrien Brody, as much from Predators as from Jackson’s Kong flick. He’s unremarkable as a male action/romantic lead here, and even in this movie’s anachronism stew he stands out as not belonging to the period. Unlike Fay Wray in the 1933 film, Brie Larson’s character is behind the camera, composing the shots. Like Fay Wray, though, her actual performance is almost completely comprised of reaction shots to effects shots and second unit work—ok, look surprised, look amused, look pensive—but without the explicitly ironic framing device of staged travelogue vs unwanted cinéma vérité. The character is exactly as shoehorned in as it feels, an updated version of the Ann Darrow archetype with less to do than any version of that damsel ever had; Larson has to make do with giving good face in a nothing part. (She still has more to do than Jing Tian, though, whose part is I Am Also in This Movie and nothing else.) John C. Reilly gives the standout seriocomic performance here, but the film makes the fatal mistake of acknowledging it with a disastrous coda that is like something from Walk Hard played straight.

That shallowness and inability to balance very different tones carries over to the “serious” themes in the movie as well. The refighting-Vietnam-as-genre-piece allegory would have more (any) weight if Vogt-Roberts wasn’t so clearly enamored of pilfering and recycling war movie images for TOTALLY AWESOME hypersaturated PG-13 motion comic shots of carnage which put Larson’s bog-standard black and white National Geographic ethnography and landscape stills to shame but feel just as meaningless.

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