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KONG: SKULL ISLAND – the next entry into what is being dubbed the “Legendary [Pictures] MonsterVerse” after 2014’s GODZILLA remake – has finally arrived. When the trailer for this film first dropped, my reaction to it can be summed up simply with an eyeroll; yet another franchise getting a remake/reboot. As I mentioned in my review for GET OUT, these can get pretty tiring after a while. But after its subsequent trailers, I started to come around on it. The film certainly looked like it was in the spirit of its predecessor King Kong films, which would make for a fun ride at the movies. After hearing decent to good things from people who had already seen it, it was all I needed to hear before purchasing my ticket – and I’m happy to report that this film is the definition of F-U-N.

The film starts out in 1944 during World War II, as two fighter pilots (an American and Japanese) simultaneously crash land onto a seemingly remote island. After a bit of a chase through this terrain, they come about the edge of a cliff before beginning to maul each other in what would most likely be a fight to the death. During the fight, they are startled by a loud rumbling before coming face-to-face with a giant gorilla – the eponymous Kong. The film then jumps nearly 30 years to 1973 at the tail end of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Two scientists representing the government organization known as Monarch, Bill Randa and Houston Brooks (played by John Goodman and Corey Hawkins, respectively), plead with Senator Willis (played by Richard Jenkins) for funding for an expedition to what is being claimed that the last remaining uncharted island. After Senator Willis reluctantly relents, Randa and Brooks track down British Secret Service Captain James Conrad (played by Tom Hiddleston) as a “tracker” to lead the on-foot expedition of the island. Along for the ride are anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (played by Brie Larson), Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson), and Packard’s veteran helicopter squadron. Once the team arrives on the island, well, let’s just say they run into the island’s head honcho, and he doesn’t like visitors.

The film’s strength really does come from its action sequences. The first 15-20 minutes or so do a great job of sufficiently building up to the team’s arrival on Skull Island, because once they do arrive, after a couple of minutes of establishment montage shots, the main draw finally shows up, and the film is full-speed ahead! I wonder if the idea to show Kong right away was a response to the fact that in GODZILLA, the monster wasn’t fully shown until the film’s third act. Nonetheless, this sequence (where Kong attacks the intruders) is one of the film’s best, as it gives all action movie fans everything that they want in a movie – smashing, crashing, and explosions! The film’s climax is also full of tremendous action that is sure to please. If this is the type of movie you like, you have no reason not to check this out while it’s still in theaters. If you’re more into well-developed story with three-dimensional characters, this might not be the film for you.

While the action is certainly top notch, I can’t say the same for (most of) the film’s characters. With the exception of Jackson’s lieutenant character and John C. Reilly’s character, the script doesn’t really pay mind (or even really care) about the rest of its human characters; and without the proper writing and development (especially for its leads), all the audience sees them as are just nameless fodder for either Kong or the other monsters of Skull Island. Neither Hiddleston’s (with the exception of one barely 5-minute scene) nor Larson’s characters are really given any background nor, for that matter, any reason for the audience to care about them. As a result, viewers are left to sit there and tap their feet while they wait for the reappearance of Kong. While this is certainly a problem, I’m not sure that the moviegoers that this film is targeting will really care all that much. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, if you’re excited for KONG: SKULL ISLAND, then it’s most likely because you want to see Kong smash stuff up and take names. And that’s exactly what he does!

Certainly not the best film out in theaters right now (I give that accolade to both LOGAN and GET OUT – two films that, if you haven’t seen them yet, you need to stop reading this and go see them ASAP), but the film accomplishes what it sets out to do – give you a new, badass King Kong, and show him smashing helicopters, breaking spines, and cracking jaws.  I do find it interesting that this film was released in the middle of March, as this is the type of fare moviegoers would enjoy during the blockbuster-heavy summer months. As such, any viewer going in and knowing what to expect will be delighted to hear that it follows through on all of its promises – and then-some. Others that are looking for more traditional fare (a more fluent script and better characters) are better off passing on this one. But if you’re looking to just kick back, relax, and have some fun with a giant gorilla named Kong, then KONG: SKULL ISLAND awaits your arrival.



Jordan Vogt-Roberts

2017 • 118 Minutes • United States

Color • English • Warner Bros. Pictures

Cast:  Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Corey Hawkins, Shea Whigham


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