When it’s all totaled up, how much of our lives will we spend watching movie end-credits sequences in hopes of seeing a “stinger” at the end? One year? Two years?
Experts disagree, but now that movies have to be part of “universes” of interlocked chapters, you must see the buried teaser for the next one. Such is the case with “Kong: Skull Island,” so make sure you bring along a magazine to kill the time while hundreds of names roll past at the end.
The wait is worth it — mostly — but the main takeaway is that “Kong” is setting up a big monster-movie series. This already happened back in the 1960s, when King Kong first met Godzilla, and Godzilla took on all comers. But it wasn’t so much a universe as guys in rubber suits fighting each other.
This “Kong” ditches the outline of the great 1933 classic “King Kong” and its remakes, in favor of a nutty but entertaining reboot set during the Vietnam War.
We travel to a previously uncharted island in the company of a government scientist (John Goodman), a jungle tracker (Tom Hiddleston), and a war photographer (Brie Larson, from “Room”). Goodman’s character believes something unusual awaits there, but he isn’t saying what.
They’re escorted by a Special Forces unit, whose leader (Samuel L. Jackson) is itching to win a war for a change.
We don’t have to wait long to meet the real star. As helicopters drop seismic charges on Skull Island, a giant ape registers his displeasure. As an entrance, this one’s pretty rad, as Kong swats away choppers and swallows soldiers with savage abandon, leaving the survivors to trek across the terrain in hopes of rescue.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) never tops this wild sequence, and he has other problems. The movie wants to balance action and quippy one-liners, but rarely gets the mix right.
Hiddleston is a bust as a dashing adventurer (“Stand on a hillside with one leg cocked” seems to be his acting note), and Larson has the shocked look of someone who wins an Oscar and finds out this is her reward.
The body count is high — even star billing doesn’t mean you’ll survive. Minor roles are well cast, with actors like Shea Wigham and Thomas Mann scoring nicely, and Toby Kebbell especially good as a lonely soldier.
And then there’s the daffy World War II pilot who’s been stranded on Skull Island for 30 years. He is John C. Reilly. This is a very good thing.
The period setting allows for the usual jukebox soundtrack (if you thought we were getting through this without hearing “White Rabbit,” think again), as well as some eyebrow-raising metaphors about the Vietnam War.
The movie’s not skillful enough to pull off that kind of pulp profundity. But it’s lively enough to sustain a 3D thrill ride, including extensive monster-on-monster fights.
Yes, it turns out Kong is not alone here; various prehistoric creatures also populate the place. The monster battles are just beginning.
“Kong: Skull Island” (3 stars)
As a thrill ride, this monster rally is entertaining even if the tone is uncertain and a couple of its leads (looking at you, Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson) are busts. A Vietnam-war-era expedition travels to an uncharted island and discovers not only a giant ape, but other huge beasts that will figure in future sequels. With John Goodman.
Rating: PG-13 for violence, language
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Blue Fox Drive-In, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza.