I was pleasantly surprised by King Kong: Skull Island, an entertaining B-movie with enough guilty pleasures and awe-inspiring action to make you overlook the cliches. No, really, this is a film that just wants to entertain and does so in spades. "Kings of Summer" director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has actually even one-upped the Jurassic Park franchise by making a creature movie that ups the ante in action and suspense. Take that "Jurassic World."
The plot isn't really any different than the other Kongs we've gotten over the years, although this time it takes place during the tail end of the Vietnam war with a team of explorers, and 'nam soldiers, travelling to the token uncharted island in the Pacific, they are, as usual, oblivios and unaware that they are about to cross through an Island filled with super-sized creatures, which includes the titular King ape.
The special effects are incredible, maybe the best use of the technology at a filmmaker's disposal I have seen in quite some time. Credit must be given to Vogt-Roberts who expertly stages the action in comprehensible and fluid ways. It helps that his cast has John C. Reilly, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston and John Goodman, top notch actors that always bring a form of humanity to their roles, no matter and that's important because the characters here are underwritten and udnerdeveloped.
Reilly is the standout, he's the man left behind. A WWII soldier whose plane crashes in Skull Island and ends up living with the indigenous tribe there for more than three decades before the crew shows up to bring him home. He's a riot, the spark of energy the film needs most just when you think cardboard caricatures are invading the screen. He brings an abundance of oddbal charm and humor to his role.
Vogt-Roberts mixes incredible action, silly humor, but, more importantly, a certain meta self-awareness that is more than welcome here. That's the thing about this film, you can't really just shake your head and say "oh that's just silly," because the filmmaker seem to know that, essentially, his film a silly B-movie that doesn't adhere to any of the pretensions that can come with some of the more self-serious monster movies of the past. That in fact was undoing for many of those films.
Compared to Peter Jackson's 2005 take, which was 3 hours and 14 minutes in length, this is a breezy and much shorter take that feels very welcome and less pretensious than Jackson's ambitiously breathtaking, but overlong film. "Skull Island" is globe-trotting fun mixed with monster-movie goofiness that is likely to be one of the more pleasant surprises of the Spring movie season [B+]