REVIEW – “Kong: Skull Island”
Despite being one the most iconic figures in cinema history, King Kong has had it rough in his personal life. He is the titular “King,” but is killed graphically in all of his films and usually plays second fiddle to the humans inhabited by an all-star cast to sell their film. However, Kong: Skull Island finally gives Kong his due. He is front and center here, smashing all the giant monsters that his heart desires, smacking pesky humans and their bomb-dropping helicopters out from his beloved sky, and is truly the hero of his own story, and more importantly, his home on Skull Island. Taking place in 1973, an organization known as Monarch finds an island with a mysterious past for all who travel there. It doesn’t take long for this group of explorers and soldiers to run into King Kong, dozens of different monsters, and mysterious tribes – all for them to out run, fight, or hide from.
I know I said that this is Kong’s film, but I’d be mistaken to not mention how great of a cast they have rounded up here. From John Goodman, John C. Reilly, and Samuel L. Jackson who ham up their performances to a delightful high, to Tom Hiddleston, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, and Thomas Mann as the muscle with humanity underneath the guns. And of course, we have the inevitable blonde for Kong to take notice to within Brie Larson. This cast is undeniably impressive, but it’s really surprising how much chemistry they have with one another and how I cared for all of the characters. One character who I was drawn to from the start of the film was John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow, who has been stranded on the Island since World War II. He respects Kong and the tribal people who inhabit Skull Island alongside him, but still remains hopeful that he’ll make it back home to his family. This character is the most developed and fleshed out of the bunch, while also having the most satisfying and complete character arc.
What most people are here for is the action. I’m glad to report that Skull Island is full of absolutely bad-ass action sequences full of Kong smashing helicopters, punching various different monsters, jumping, stomping, and roaring so gloriously that it is bound to shake your theater’s walls. Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who previously helmed 2013’s The Kings of Summer, has such a great eye for spectacle in the moments when it matters most. He perfectly balances the moments of scale that show you how ginormous and destructive Kong is, but knows how to scale down for the smaller moments where you see his humanity. It’s also impressive how well-shot this film is, with an absolutely gorgeous color pallet that you rarely see in blockbusters nowadays. From a sequence where a green smoke bomb goes off amidst an action sequence to the red sun soaking down on Kong and the soldiers; the breathtaking visual effects aren’t the best of the visual treats here.
This isn’t a great film by any means. Some people will be turned off by some cheesy dialogue and questionable plot points and character motivations, but if you’re like me and think you’ll be able to look past all of those aspects at the expense of action sequences that are absolutely bonkers, then you’ll have one hell of a good time. I’d pull a Godzilla and say that the last fifteen-minutes of the film are worth the price of admission alone – but I’d be lying if I said that. Because the entire adventure here is so damn’ entertaining and blends action/subtle terror near brilliantly that I can’t imagine any Kong fan leaving the theater disappointed. And as for leaving the theater, don’t leave until AFTER the credits are finished rolling. You’re in for a treat. 3.5/5.