Kong: Skull Island

The legendary King Kong returns in an all new adventure that gives the classic tale a much needed update and new setting. Unlike Perter Jackson’s retelling of the original Black and White film, “Kong: Skull Island” eschews the old for the new and in doing so breathes a much needed new life and vitality into the franchise.

The film is set in 1973 when William Randa (John Goodman), informs the government that they have detected a previously unknown island and need to investigate it before the Soviets learn of it and beat them to whatever the island my hold.

William recruits a team which includes a former British officer named James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), and Photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), to assist his team lead by Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), in mapping the island.

William also asks for a military escort and the government enlists Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), and his team to accompany the mission. Packard is trying to find his place in the world as he and his helicopter combat team are dealing with the recent end of the Vietnam War. His men are looking forward to going home and resuming their lives, but a dour Packard jumps at the chance for another mission over the uncertainty of the future.

Upon arriving on the mysterious island and starting their survey mission by using seismic charges, the team attract the attention of Kong who is not at all pleased with the intrusion on his island. Kong makes short work of the copters and the team finds themselves scattered about the dangerous island. They soon learn that Kong is not the only danger on the island and must find a way to rejoin each other and make it to their extraction point alive.

Naturally some of the characters have a hidden agenda and there are dangerous and action around every corner. Further complicating matters is the appearance of Marlow (John C. Reilly), a downed WWII pilot who has been stranded on the island for 23 years and warns of dangers far greater than Kong that are ahead of the team.

The film combines a solid cast with state of the art special effects to take a new twist on the standard adventure fare. While many parts of the film remain silly Popcorn entertainment, the quality of the assembled cast allows the film to move beyond being just an assembly of potential victims for a menagerie of CGI creatures to dispatch.

While the story is more in lines with the linear and thin plots of adventure films of old, the sum of the parts does add up to an enjoyable film experience for those who like the giant creature films. You will want to make sure to stay after the credits as there is a very good scene that shows a setup for a future film that had those in attendance at our press screening cheering.

The film may be a bit intense for younger viewers but if you are looking for a touch of nostalgia and action, you may find the film just what you need.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Second Review by Joshua Aja


King Kong may be the most famous of all film primates. There have been movies, TV shows, and animated series all devoted to the colossal giant gorilla. It all started in 1933 with the original King Kong which was an instant hit, one of the top horror movies in its day and a classic must see film. Since that first movie, Kong has wreaked havoc on New York, climbed to the top of the Empire State Building a number of times, fell in love with a damsel or two, fought numerous foes (Godzilla, dinosaurs, humans of course, etc.) and generally terrified audiences for over 80 years. Many adaptations have been made including the most recent King Kong (2005), which was Director Peter Jacksons retelling of the original 1933 film with modern filming and computer-generated imaging (CGI). There have been Japanese versions, even his son has had his own film (Son of Kong 1933) and a slew of knock-offs of the movie monster gorilla. Not all of the films have been box office hits but the story and King Kong himself continues to be brought back into the cinematic world.

Kong: Skull Island is the latest feature film to take on the mythological King Kong. In it a group of survey scientist set out to map the one of the last uncharted islands recently found via satellite in 1973. Accompanying the survey expedition are three members of the group Monarch (a secret government subsidized scientific group that specializes on myths and legends), James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) an ex-British intelligence officer and experienced tracker, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) an anti-war photojournalist, and a military escort lead by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Once the eclectic group arrives just outside Skull Island they find an enormous storm system encircling the island. With reservations whether the group of helicopters they have will even make it through the storm they embark on their mission of discovery.

The plan once they get to the island is to drop explosive charges at intervals and use seismic instruments to map the bedrock and give them an idea of the topography of the island. With a small group on the ground several helicopters head out and start deploying the explosive charges shaking the island and awakening its inhabitants. Emerging from between mountains a 100 foot monster stands in front of the helicopters enraged. The only one not surprised by this monster is Bill Randa (John Goodman), the head of the Monarch group, who true purpose for joining the expedition was to find something exactly like this. King Kong rushes the helicopters as the men in them first stare in awe then begin instinctively firing everything they have at the gigantic gorilla. The men with all of their fire power and the advantage of being airborne are no match for Kong on his home turf and every helicopter is quickly destroyed, killing several men and scattering the survivors throughout the dense jungle of the island. Now the mission for the survivors is to find each other and make it to an extraction point on the opposite end of the island. A small group are trekking through the jungle and encounter people living on the island, all of whom previously stranded on the island. They find among them Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) a World War II pilot stranded on the island for nearly 30 years. He explains that Kong is not the one they have to fear but rather he is protecting them from a more fearsome enemy and the people of the island worship him as a god. Marlow agrees to help them link up with the rest of the team. But they will have to traverse a thick jungle with creatures that are sometimes beautiful and most often dangerous and deadly.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) has an interesting take on the monster movie with Kong: Skull Island. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, in what seems to be a throwback to the 1933 original, which going in would be a good thing to know. But it also has a very post-Vietnam feel. Especially with Samuel L. Jackson’s character being obsessed with avenging his soldiers by killing Kong, which dominates a lot of the movie and I could have done with less of this particular character. The soundtrack is very much of the Apocalypse Now era of film. The animals/monsters are really well done and with the exception of King Kong are very original. There are spiders with bamboo tree stocks for legs, insects that look like fallen logs, large bat like creatures with saws for noses, and more. The script is full of cheesy dialog that seems to fit in the genre but does take away from the acting performances. The action scenes are sometimes over the top but appropriate in my opinion. There is a large cast full of okay performances but John C. Reilly really steals the scenes that he is in. The visual effects and overall cinematography are well done and there is a very distinctive hazy feel once they are on the island.

I feel like they took some chances and there were some good and some bad. It entertained but minus John C. Reilly’s performance and King Kong himself there were not a ton of things I would pay to see again. This was a decent use of 3D, which is how I viewed the film, and IMAX would be a good choice. There were times that people in the theatre were laughing when I do not think the film makers meant a laugh to be, which could be bad or good depending on the film experience you are looking for.


3 out of 5