The latest Kong borrows at least a couple of pages from the script of the latest Godzilla (unsurprising, since Max Borenstein co-wrote both) — notably, the jacking up of the big ape’s size to truly gargantuan (though he does seem to grow and shrink a bit according to the demands of the scene), and the pitting of monster against monster, with people mostly serving as not-so-innocent bystanders. Plus the notion of monster as humanity’s benevolent protector, in spite of that status as not-so-innocent. The results are similarly middling. These critters are cuddly gods, demanding no sacrifice and forgiving all sins — though sometimes after a flare-up of temper. It’s fun to watch them in action, but on the human side, the film is clumsily written, over-cast and underacted, with only frustrated soldier Samuel L. Jackson striking the right tone of crazy amid the chaos. (John Goodman sounds bored as an intrepid scientist, while Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston are reduced to tight-shirted eye candy as a combat photographer and secretly sensitive tracker, respectively.) Besides the godlike gorilla, the real star seems to be ‘70’s technology, as director Jordan Vogt-Roberts lavishes loving attention on slide projectors, walkie-talkies, reel-to-reel players, manually adjusted cameras, and bucket-of-bolts transportation. Just don’t ask yourself who is holding the Super 8 during the final scene. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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