It has been just 12 years since we last saw the King of the Apes in director Peter Jackson’s three-hour epic, King Kong. For what it’s worth, the monster movie about a ginormous gorilla Jackson gave audiences back in 2005 worked great as a dramatic piece. But now, Kong is back, but in an action-oriented reboot connected to Legendary Studios’ monsters universe, which began back in 2014 with the critically praised reboot of Godzilla. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ version of King Kong in Kong: Skull Island results in a thrilling action romp that boasts an all-star cast full of colorful characters that feature their own sense of humor. And on top of that, Kong: Skull Island is also just a fun, movie going experience, watching monsters clash with each other in grand fashion on the big screen.
This film fully immerses audiences in the mysterious and dangerous home of the king of the apes as a team of explorers ventures deep inside the treacherous, primordial island.
Kong: Skull Island takes the beaten (and familiar) path when it comes to adventure-seeking movies. A team is recruited to embark on a journey into uncharted territory, shrouded in mystery, with danger lurking around every corner? Oh, yes. You might get a general feeling of how the movie plays out early on, but it’s still an exciting action adventure that puts a somewhat fresh spin on King Kong himself. And, honestly, it astonishes me that the movie was able to pull off so much in just under two hours. From encountering all the different, dangerous monsters that lurk on the island to meeting the entire cast and understanding their motives, the movie covers a lot of ground. Never overwhelming, Kong: Skull Island moves at a brisk pace, never feels boring, and ends right when it should. (But don’t leave the theater too quickly, because there’s an awesome post-credits scene afterwards.)
The characters fitted for the expedition to Skull Island are all played exceptionally well by the movie’s all-star cast. Tom Hiddleston (Thor) is suitable as a decommissioned British Special Air Service Captain turned hunter-tracker, who is disillusioned after serving in the Vietnam War. Like most of his roles (which is a great thing) Samuel L. Jackson’s (Jurassic Park) helicopter squadron character is archetypal, even though he has an underlying evil side that you can understand. John Goodman’s (The Big Lebowski) character is imperative (and also well- played by the established actor) to the story. Once introduced to his Goodman’s character, who works for Monarch, we wonder what his true intentions are. This is especially true if you’re familiar with the group Monarch, which played a key role in 2014’s Godzilla. Brie Larson (Room) plays a photojournalist and peace activist with an agenda of her own. Marking her first foray into big budget movies, Larson holds her own as someone trying to understand the monsters that lurk on the island. And John C. Reilly (Step Brothers) brings the right dosage of humor as the movie’s main comic relief (though everyone else is humorous in their own way). As for the rest of the cast, it shapes up nicely with actors you’ve probably noticed both in movies and television (Corey Hawkins from Straight Outta Compton and Shea Whigham from Boardwalk Empire).
Unlike anything we’ve ever seen in previous iterations of Kong, the King of the Apes here stands even taller at over 100-plus feet. And thankfully, director Vogt-Roberts doesn’t monkey around when it comes to showing off how badass his version of Kong is, putting the ape’s massive size to great use in conflicts with both the humans and monsters that try to pick a bone with him. The action in Kong: Skull Island is sheer entertainment. From the first conflict with the King of the Apes to the climax itself, the action sequences mix greatly with set designs and great visual effects; the attention to detail, from the digitally created monsters (especially Kong) to the luscious scenery of Skull Island, provides rich eye candy for the audience. It’s also worth mentioning that cinematographer Larry Fong (300) uses contrasting colors that pop out on the screen, both day and night, with striking results.
Sure, some of the dialogue in the movie is bland and the story is familiar. Yet, Kong: Skull Island is irresistible thanks to its iconic ape, A-list actors playing regular Joes that never take themselves too seriously, and the sense that this is, first and foremost, a blockbuster. When you go into movies like Kong: Skull Island, you strap yourselves in for big-time action, adventure, and mayhem. And that is exactly what you get in this satisfying reboot of the King of the Apes, which paves the way for the eventual, exciting showdown between King Kong and Godzilla in 2020.