Kong: Skull Island – Movie Review

The giant monster movies over the last dozen years have looked absolutely stellar. “Pacific Rim”, “Godzilla” and Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” have all been glorious CGI wonders.  Unfortunately, aside from the amazing visuals, each of those films lacked in overall entertainment. 2008’s “Cloverfield” is arguably the most fun. It’s hard to believe that the man responsible for 2013’s coming-of-age film, “Kings of Summer” is the same guy who delivered probably the best remake of “King Kong” so far.  Jordan Vogt-Roberts has not only given us a film that looks wonderful, but one that is as fun as it should be.

“Kong: Skull Island” is the second film in Legendary’s Monsterverse, following “Godzilla” in 2014.   The studio’s plan makes total sense since “shared cinematic universes” have become major money makers. Universal plans to do it with their classic movie monsters as well.  Although “Godzilla” was a mixed-bag, this latest reboot of King Kong is a definite winner.  In all honesty, I found myself quite surprised since I was not too impressed with the film’s trailers.

Set in 1973, a secret organization known as Monarch, headed by Bill Randa (John Goodman) discovers an uncharted island that is shrouded in mystery.  When his associate Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) helps convince the government to help fund their research, little do they know what is in store for them.  Joining the team is professional tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), anti-war photo–journalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), scientists led by Victor Nieves (John Ortiz) and a military escort headed by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson).  Yep, that’s a pretty impressive cast.

As soon as the choppers fly over the island, they begin dropping seismic charges.  The blasts draw the attention of a very pissed off massive ape, and with a few swats, he takes down each of the choppers.  The men and women who were able to survive having been separated by miles of jungle with plenty of giant creatures ready to chow down on human flesh.

“Kong: Skull Island” is a popcorn flick and doesn’t try to be anything more.  It wants to entertain the audience and it does so to great effect.  One of the film’s biggest surprises is John C. Reilly who is there for comic relief but his character Hank Marlow has a deeper emotional pull than I expected.   Hank was shot down during World War II and he has been residing on the island for 28 years with the natives, leaving a wife and now adult son behind.  I found myself rooting for him to make his way back to the family he lost.

There’s tons of action in “Kong: Skull Island” and Kong himself looks fantastic, especially in IMAX.  The island’s other creatures are pretty damn impressive as well. My favorite has to be the giant daddy-long-legs spider. The main villainous creatures, named the “Skull Crawlers” are probably the least interesting but it doesn’t stop Kong from having a few fun moments with them.

Much like other shared-universe films, “Kong: Skull Island” has a post-credits stinger that is worth sticking around for, even though the end credits feel about as long as most feature films.

By: Marc Ferman