The legacy of King Kong in Hollywood hasn’t been too stellar since his 1933 coming-out party. There have been spin-offs and remakes; the last one being Peter Jackson’s retelling in 2005 where we found Kong looking for love in Naomi Watts’ damsel in distress. After, the big man has been hiding for years until the announcement of this year’s reboot. It is probably best that one walked into theaters with high hopes but level expectations when buying a ticket for Kong: Skull Island; at least that’s how I walked in and walked out being impressed.
Produced by the same team behind 2014’s Godzilla reboot, we begin the story in 1944 during World War II, where an American pilot and a Japanese pilot crash on an island and hunt each other through a jungle until something something appears to make them realize that their one-on-one battle is so small compared to other things in the world. Moving forward to 1973 and the eventual end of the Vietnam War, America is licking its wounds as we pull out from the warzone.
William Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), representing government organization Monarch, are seeking to recruit a team to guide an expedition to map out a mysterious island known as “Skull Island”. He makes this case with knowledge that the U.S. government’s 1950s A-bomb tests in the Pacific weren’t tests at all, but a means to kill something. After they were given approval, the scientists hire former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and recruit the Sky Devils, a Vietnam War helicopter squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Joined by pacifist photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), the expedition makes it to the storm protected Skull Island.
Once they arrive, this pre-historic paradise looks untouched by man’s modern-day creations. That’s until the team starts dropping explosives to conduct their tests of the Earth. Once that happens, the man – or should I say, ape – of the island wakes up to show them not to mess with his land. Taking down the team’s helicopters, the expedition team is separated onto different parts of the island and must work to regroup and escape. Unfortunately, not only do they have to contend with Kong but other razor-toothed lizards, beasts, and natives that roam the island.
Overall, Skull Island was an amazing, well-done monster movie. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and Industrial Light and Magic’s Kong is a CGI showstealer. A lot of the special effects went into the close to real life Eighth Wonder of the World and it wasn’t at the sacrifice of a story. The story was held up by solid acting and you learned to care about the different groups when they are separated. Tom Hiddleston really shines in this movie as the tracker, flexing his action hero roles beyond the constrictions of Marvel’s Loki while Samuel L. Jackson’s Packard character barks his great vengeance and furious anger as he seeks to conquer the mighty beast. Surprisingly, the best character out of this film was the grown-up pilot played by John C. Reilly, whose comedic timing and levity to the action sequences were spot-on. While you might not care too much for those bodies that the island claims or Kong takes out, whether from the helicopters he swatted out of the sky or the poor souls that meet the bottom of his feet. This solid film acts out like it belongs in the summer rather than the winter going into the spring season.
I will say to stay in your seat for a post-credits scene that will continue to connect the dots for Legendary’s MonsterVerse, the shared cinematic universe centering on the monster films. I won’t spoil it for my readers, but we can expect a titanic showdown coming soon. I would definitely recommend this movie so go out and see it!
Until next time!