***** out of 5
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language
Warner Bros. Pictures
Article first published at TheReelPlace.com
My love for monster movies/creature features runs deep. It’s wondrous when they get them right: full of spectacular special effects and the watching something truly larger than life. And it brings me nothing but joy that Kong: Skull Island is everything fans could hope for and more. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts — of the criminally underseen indie The Kings of Summer — and screenwriters Dan Gilroy, Derek Connolly (Jurassic World), and Max Borenstein (Godzilla) have kickstarted the Warner Bros. monsterverse with one of the best since the original Jurassic Park.
Beginning in 1944, we find a young Hank Marlow (Will Brittain), crash landing on Skull Island during a dogfight against the Japanese Gunpei Ikari (Miyavi). They quickly learn they are not alone on the island. Jumping to 1977, Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) have just arrived in D.C. to convince Senator Willis (Richard Jenkins) to fund their expedition for Project Monarch. Their mission is to discover Skull Island before the Russians can, to prove the existence of creatures from a land where time never stopped. Now, they’re headed for Skull Island with a military escort in tow, lead by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), with tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), and photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) along for the ride. But ulterior motives come to light and quickly turn into a fight for survival. And Hank (John C. Reilly) just may be their only hope of getting off the island alive.
The only thing potentially working against Kong’s favor, is too much action. Make no mistake, this is absolutely not a retelling of the original 1933 story. There’s a specific reason the film’s IMAX poster recalls Apocalypse Now. Even while packed with way more humor than you’d guess — a Jackson one-liner steals the movie — it rarely slows to catch its breath. This is also the most flat-out violent version of King Kong put to film yet. There are some jaw-dropping moments that make you want to scream, “Did we just see that?” While it may be PG-13, there is plenty of carnage candy to behold. And yes, there is a bonus scene after the end credits.
Kong: Skull Island may be stripped down story wise, but it’s all for the better. Gone is the damsel in distress sequences. All of the action is contained to the island setting. Some may feel that the ending is anticlimactic, but in the grand scheme of things, it works as a setup. Plus, it doesn’t exactly have full closure, giving an immediate jumping point to the next film. If you’re wondering why it’s set in the ’70s when Godzilla was set in the present, pay attention. It makes sense. The new monsterverse needs the room to grow, as does Kong himself, with the already announced Godzilla vs. Kong a mere three years away. This is an amazing adventure of epic proportions sure to please anyone looking for some true fun. I know I already have a ticket to see it again this weekend in IMAX 3D. Hail to the King, Kong is back and better than ever!