It has been a long while since the monstrous ape, King Kong, has graced us with his presence on the big screen. From his legendary beginning in the 1933 original all the way to his appearance in Peter Jackson’s ambitious and epic 2005 retelling, King Kong has been a fixture in American cinema, more so when paired with other monsters, especially from the gallery of Toho’s kaiju collection, including Godzilla. Now, King Kong is returning to the big screen as part of a greater plan formed by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. in crafting a “MonsterVerse” of all available monsters in cinema. Three years ago, Godzilla had his time in his reboot that began this new cinematic universe, and now it is King Kong’s time to shine.
“Kong: Skull Island” is set in 1973 during the tail-end of the Vietnam War. As American forces are being told to pull back, a secretive organization known as “Monarch” decides to use the remaining time and forces in staking out a reconnaissance mission to a mysterious island in the South Pacific. The mission, headed by two members of Monarch, Randa (John Goodman) and Brooks (Corey Hawkins), aims to find out what the island contains, both on it and deep within it, as Monarch’s mission is to find real monsters still in the world. With the assistance of a helicopter strike group led by Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), British mercenary/tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and renowned anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), the Monarch team goes in to “Skull Island,” but they are taken aback by the sight of Kong (motion captured by Terry Notary). The monster swiftly makes work of them after they start launching bombs on the island’s surface. Faced with the prospect of being stranded on the island and either killed by the other monstrous indigenous life, the team proceeds in trying to escape, aided by a stranded World War II fighter pilot (John C. Reilly) and by Kong himself, who aims to keep the other, more dangerous monsters at bay, whatever the cost.
The film, unlike 2014’s “Godzilla,” does not stop in its tracks or waste any time in showing you the main event of the film. From the get-go, you get straight-up spectacle as the impressive visual effects of Kong, the helicopters and other monsters go toe-to-toe with each other for the first half of the film, with only slight character interactions placed sporadically about.
Character development is placed on the distant backburner for the supporting characters as Jackson, Hiddleston, Larson and Reilly take center stage. Jackson brings in an over-the-top and fun performance as the military colonel who develops a Captain Ahab persona as he wishes vengeance on Kong for the deaths of his squadmates. Reilly, Larson and Hiddleston’s characters all have great banter with each other as the most collected of the survivors.
The film does have some lulls of inaction at times, but these are thankfully few and far in between. Kong reasonably and effectively steals the show as he combats the fearsome “Skullcrawlers” of the island that threaten everyone on it. By the last half hour, the intensity of the film reaches an exciting peak as the action is shot incredibly well, with a fantastic eye for detail coming from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
I wish the musical score was more memorable, especially with Kong’s theme, and during the action set-pieces. The dialogue could’ve been better written, and a better story could’ve been more present. However, the film manages to make do without them and still impress the audience.
Film: “Kong: Skull Island”
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Release Date: March 10th
Rating: 4 out of 5