It’s pretty mind-blowing to think that the character of King Kong is over 80 years old. From those early black and white claymation days, to the CG of today Kong is still King as we are transported by way of yet another indie director given a major multimillion dollar franchise to bring to successful life.
“Kong: Skull Island” opens during WWII in a pretty great sequence, then quickly spends the next 20-30 minutes doing everything it can to convince us we are in the 1970’s. The Vietnam War, bad ties and suits, and all the familiar needle-drops to show what decade we are in, then it proceeds to become a blend of modern and 90’s creature features. In any other film this would make ‘Kong’ an epic ball drop in a possible franchise builder starting with the 2014 Godzilla reboot. But somehow this film ends up really entertaining, with the monster brawls, the fantastic camera shots, and John C. Riley, oh the John C. Riley of it all!
John Goodman, Corey Hawkins and their group of scientists from Monarch go to the newly discovered Skull Island with a military escort led by Samuel L. Jackson with a mercenary (Tom Hiddleston) who’s seen it all and photographer (Brie Larson) who’s shot it all. Together they make it to the island only to be attacked by the giant ape and now must survive the strange creatures that inhabit this lost world. As the separated group attempt to navigate the island they meet up with Riley, who has been stranded on the island for decades.
Along with the action, the greatness that is John C. Riley is what saves this movie from being a boring slog with entertaining set pieces. Every time he speaks, its gold, and as the film goes on, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) becomes less and less concerned with the era the film takes place in, despite the length of time it took to cement us there. John Goodman is slightly carrying over his character from last year’s awesome “10 Cloverfield Lane”, Sam Jackson plays Sam Jackson from “Jurrasic Park” and “Deep Blue Sea”, everyone else just goes with whatever flow happens to be occurring at the time. There’s even a “300” moment, which would be sad if it wasn’t hilariously fun.
Overall “Kong: Skull Island” is very entertaining, Kong himself gets more play than Godzilla did, but he’s not as emotionally deep as Peter Jackson’s version from 2005. They still try to play up the Fay Wray/Jessica Lange/Naomi Watts relationship with Larson, but just more on the mild side. This one is all about the monsters and their place in this version of nature. And stay after the end credits to get a glimpse of where this franchise is heading.
–Robert L. Castillo