The initial assumption prior to watching "Kong: Skull Island" is probably "Not another King Gong movie!" It is. Moreover, it is directed by a guy whose previous feature film was as far removed from a special effects laden monster-mash as one could get.


Jordan Vogt-Roberts directed the interesting indy, "Kings of Summer" about coming of age boys on a low-level adventure of self discovery. Now he is directing the likes of Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, and Tom Hiddleston in a $190-million mega movie. The key here is he is not directing as much as assembling a series of CGI action sequences with actors that already come with big personalities.


The overall attempt by Warner Bros is to create a MonsterVerse, kind of like Marvel's universe. There are a couple of references to the recent "Godzilla" (2014) and the idea is to have these two mega-monsters duel in the near future - provided these films are profitable. That particular "Godzilla" grossed $529-million world wide with $200 million domestic. The last "King Kong" (2005) by Peter Jackson garnered $550 million worldwide; so there is some interest. But how much is the question. Is it enough to justify the investment.

Thus, the slightly different direction with a King Kong origin-like story. It takes place in the 70's while Viet Nam is still underway. A military escorted research team breaks away to a newly discovered island in the Pacific; it has remained hidden all this time because it is shrouded in a constant cloak of storm clouds. Adventurer Bill Randa (Goodman) is leading the expedition after squeezing the money out of the Nixon administration.


With him are military commando Preston Packard (Jackson), peacenik photographer Mason Weaver (Larson), and a British agent James Conrad (Hiddleston) along with brainiac Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins). Upon arriving they immediately encounter the big ape who is not intimidated at all by the military. After Kong dispatches most of their military advantage, the group shifts immediately from research mode to survival mode. To their benefit they encounter a long lost castaway Hank (John C Reilly) who explains to them the rules of the island. Simply put, the monsters rule and Kong is the king of the monsters.


And there are a variety of critters running around that would make Jurassic Park blush. We get to see Kong dispatch the various beasts even as he becomes intrigued by Mason.


The story is rather weak and the dialogue rather elementary. The talent presents their own take on the characters with Larson hardly playing the poor little girl in distress. You get pretty much what you'd expect from Jackson and Goodman's "big" personalities, Reilly's quirky-kooky humorous personality, and Hiddleston's oh-so-British personality. Then you get a virtual non-stop two hours of action, action, action.


And that is what saves the film; it is an indulgence of gratuitous action that never lets up even when it doesn't quite make sense.


"Kong: Skull Island" sates your appetite for amok-time action and creative creatures. It should segue with "Godzilla: King of Monsters" in development now to bolster Warner Brother's MonsterVerse. Look for Mothra, Rodan and Ghirdorah soon!   -- GEOFF BURTON