Another Kong movie? Ugh, just shoot me already.
You know, at least that was where I was at before actually sitting through this. I was raised on the 1933 classic film and the 1976 remake (Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, solid stuff) and I was quite young when Peter Jackson took his 3 hour crack at the story. Each film did little things with the story and ideas but, for the most part, just checked the boxes. The original remained the pinnacle of Kong movies.
I won’t say that Kong: Skull Island outdid that first film, but I will say that it did a solid job at being very different and entertaining for such a bombastic film that could have easily just followed a formula. A strong cast, a workable script, and just enough variation on the classic ideas kept me entertained and I had lots of fun with it.
Set during the twilight of the Vietnam War, the film follows John Goodman’s character, Bill Randa, and his assistants as they are escorted to a recently discovered island in the Pacific by adventurer James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) under the guise of geological surveyors. Within the first few moments we are told that Randa believes in monsters and his assistant is tentatively open to them. Indeed, this is what the two are actually looking for and are being piggybacked onto another trip and bringing military escorts.
The film follows a lot of these thematics, as well as adding others. The lies of the government for what they feel is the good of the people, the madness caused in American soldiers by losing the Vietnam War, and the fatigue and addiction to the lifestyle these soldiers can feel. Even Brie Larson’s character is given a theme (anti-war sentiments) but, unfortunately, most of these things are not followed to their conclusions. Instead, these themes are present and semi-tied into the action but take a backseat that leaves the audience wanting a bit more (well, at least me).
This doesn’t mean this is a bad film. Far from it, and in fact I think I enjoyed this more than 2014’s Godzilla. While that one had a crazier ending sequence, this film stayed consistently entertaining throughout and took a lot of other ideas through the film. Kong is a cranky old man in the plot, seemingly just trying to get all these humans to stop wrecking his front lawn with their bombs and their guns while fighting giant things that want to kill him. He seems exhausted, annoyed, and just crabby for most of this and it is a nice parallel to the blue-collar Godzilla that Gareth Edwards gave us.
And let’s touch on the other monsters – the Skullcrawlers. These things are freaky, and a lot bigger than the marketing made them seem. John C. Reilly cracking jokes about them did not do the creatures justice, though that was pretty entertaining. Kong fights a few of these things through the movie and each one escalates in length and intensity without feeling overlong. He fights a couple of other creatures as well, and each one is just as entertaining to watch as the last.
This was definitely worth the time spent watching it. The characters are thin, but you’re given just enough reason to care. I could use more of Kong, but each scene he’s in is awesome. I could even use a bit less of the blatant tie-ins to the upcoming MonsterVerse that continues with the next Godzilla film. Even with these issues, I had more fun on this than I have with a monster movie in awhile. This is interesting, subverts all of the standard King Kong tropes, and takes the story in a new and exciting direction that will keep you in your seat through to the ending credits.
Oh, and stay after the credits. It’s nothing massive but it’s exciting for fans of Kaiju films. You won’t be disappointed.