King Kong has graced the screen many times before, but he’s never looked like this. Kong: Skull Island gives the King his due. There’s no man in a mask or herky jerky animatronics, just Kong. Towering, textured, tangible. When you can see every piece of hair move with the breeze and watch individual muscles ripple with effort as Kong tosses helicopters around like so many snowballs, it’s nearly possible to make the leap and conclude that he really is out there, somewhere. The spectacle Kong: Skull Island delivers is undeniable. As for everything else? Let’s call it questionable.
After a brief intro scene and a pretty snazzy timeline that takes us from the peak of World War II up to the early 70s and the dying days of the Vietnam War, we are introduced to our host of characters with some whip around coverage and choice classic rock. The impetus for everything that follows is the almost maniacally determined Bill Randa (John Goodman), who uses every bit of clout he has to get funding and a military escort to an unplotted island that’s perpetually surrounded by storms. On the surface, the scientific mission is simple enough. But Randa doesn’t share his suspicions that the island is home to ancient monsters with anyone outside his key team (Corey Hawkins and Tian Jing). Photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) smells prestige and hidden depths in the seemingly simple mission, tracker and former RAF Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) is in it for the cash and Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) is looking for a win after the losing war. His men (Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann) are considerably less enthusiastic, but deeply loyal. So, everyone mounts up and heads into the fog.
No sooner is this unlikely band past the extremely extreme weather band and dropping seismic charges than they are besieged by the main man himself, King Kong. The ape of legend cuts an impressive outline against the sky and makes one hell of an entrance. He also makes some kind of foe in Packard, who takes exception to the casual destruction of his men and machines. From that point on it’s a straight-up man versus wild survival story as the humans that remain capable of drawing breath must survive several days and a trek across the island if they’re to make their extraction and return home to tell the tale. There are beasts and explosions and actions a-plenty along the way. There’s also John C. Reilly, who proves to be the MVP of the picture, stealing scenes as he does.
Kong: Skull Island is top shelf spectacle. Quite often it is absurd and ridiculous. But it also manages to inject some of the frivolity you can expect from any given Fast and the Furious movie. Sure, Tom Hiddleston’s shirt sleeves roll farther and farther up his well cut arms the longer the film is on, but he also uses a katana and a gas mask to pull one of the most bizarre stunts in recent memory. Now, is that enough to constitute a key cog in what Warner Bros, has dubbed the MonsterVerse? I don’t know. But stick around after the credits and you’ll get a look at how many more smash ’em up monster flicks are in out future.
If it’s a question of filling a few idle hours, you could do much worse than that particular kind of adrenaline-fueled popcorn accompaniment. But here’s the most essential thing, if Kong: Skull Island is on your agenda, don’t miss it in theaters. Without scale, Kong will lose his power. See it on the biggest screen you can, or not at all.
Kong: Skull Island
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writer: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly (screenplay), John Gatins (story by)
Runtime: 2h, 0mins
Release Date: March 10, 2017
Main Image Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures