There are very few things that I respect more than a movie that is unafraid to embrace its own stupidity. Kong: Skull Island has thinly written characters, extreme tonal dissonance, and a complete and utter disregard for the talents of Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson, but it’s absolutely glorious in its brazen spectacle. Its thin characters and tonal dissonance don’t matter as much because it thoroughly commits to its premise, and it seems like the movie is one ridiculous–but hilarious–visual gag after another. It’s not trying to be something it’s not, and that’s something I appreciate in any movie, especially a nostalgia-laced B-movie blockbuster about a giant ape.
Some might draw connections to the time era explored or the interplay between man and nature, but the movie succeeds at its main goal: entertain the hell out of the audience. Actors like Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are (pretty) pieces of cardboard in this, but seasoned vets like Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly thoroughly understand what it is they’re being asked to do. They both ham it up big time, with Vogt-Roberts’s visual flourishes adding to their performances in beautiful ways throughout. They both give pitch perfect performances that are 100% appropriate for their roles, and Reilly in particular becomes the heart and soul of the story. As an actor, the best response to a movie like this is to embrace the ridiculous, and Jackson and Reilly certainly do.
However, the ridiculous can sometimes move aside to reveal a visually stunning movie with a large heart. The production design is gorgeous, and the classic shot–a character whose back is turned to us, staring up in awe and fear at Kong–is breathtaking. The movie itself has that type of reaction to its own character, to its own force of nature, looking up in wonder and childish glee as Kong destroys another piece of its surroundings. This is big, bold, and confident filmmaking, precisely because the movie understands what it’s not.