March 7, 2017

Movie Review: Kong - Skull Island

With the recent Hollywood produced Pacific Rim, Godzilla '14, Shin Godzilla, and now Kong: Skull Island, I have to admit to being pleased with the resurgence of giant monsters on the big screen. It all makes me that much more excited for the promised Godzilla 2 which will introduce more creatures, as well as the expected 2020 release that will pit this Kong against Godzilla. With the trailers out there for Skull Island, I admit to being pretty excited to see what they had in store for the giant ape. With a strong cast, and an incredibly large and nasty looking King, is there anyway for this movie to fail? I guess so, but I am happy to report that it does not.

Kong: Skull Island was directed by first time feature by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who is now rumored to be attached to a Metal Gear Solid film. For a first timer working with a large budget, he acquitted himself admirably delivering a big and exciting movie, perfectly suited for blockbuster entertainment. The screenplay duties fell on Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Max Borenstein (Godzilla ‘14), and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World), based on a story by John Gatins (Real Steel). The result is a straightforward action/adventure that will hold your attention through to the end.

The film opens in 1944, an American fighter plane and a Japanese fighter plane both crash land on a mysterious island. As the two continue to fight, they are interrupted by Kong. Both men are frozen in their tracks as the monster makes his appearance. The movie then jumps ahead to 1973 as the US is preparing to withdraw from Vietnam. Crackpot scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman) has found a mysterious, uncharted island in the Pacific and had convinced military leaders to escort him and a team to the island to map it using dropped explosives. Of course, he knows more than he is letting on.

Randa, accompanied by a geologist (Corey Hawkins), a photographer (Brie Larson), and a ex-military tracker (Tom Hiddleston), are taken by a military team led by Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). It does not take long before Kong takes exception to bombs being dropped on his island. He makes his presence known and proceeds to wreak havoc on the helicopters that are buzzing around his island.

At this point, the surviving team members are scattered around the island and need to find their way to their extraction point, while avoiding the many dangers the island possesses. One of the groups meets up with Hank Marlow (John C. Reilley), the pilot from the opening scene, stranded on the island for nearly 30 years.

Kong: Skull Island is not the best of its type, but it is a fun romp. It is a straightforward film that does not make any attempts to really surprise you with its story. The all-star ensemble cast does a nice job of propelling you forward, despite not being very deep characters. Their interaction and Reilley’s expository role was more than enough to keep me interested, if not invested in what was happening. I did enjoy the characterization of Kong and his role alongside the native people of the island.

The effects were generally solid. I liked the look of this Kong as well as his massive size. He had a little personality but was not going to be taken advantage of. The other creatures on the island were also pretty interesting, although I cannot say I cared for the design of those lizard critters.

This is certainly a fast paced and pleasing film to watch. The best moments include Kong versus the helicopters (well, him against anything, really) and anything with Reilly. I should also mention that Jackson’s character, despite being pretty much one note, was still effective for me with his cold determination and desire for revenge.

Kong: Skull Island opens up the world started by Godzilla a few years ago. It is going to be pretty interesting to see these two lock horns in a few years. In the meantime, this will fill the void and do a good job of entertaining you. Also, be sure to stick around for the post-credits scene.


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