This is Chris Shelton with the Critical Picture, movie reviews you can count on. This time, it’s Kong: Skull Island directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and starring Tom Hiddelston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly.
Let’s look at a little Kong history. King Kong first appeared in black and white back in 1933, a giant gorilla living on Skull Island which filmmaker Carl Denham, as played by Robert Armstrong, has heard rumors about. He charters an expedition, not telling anyone until they get there what it’s all about. Just before they left, he had also convinced a penniless Ann Darrow, as played by Fay Wray, to accompany them on his mysterious project, ostensibly to play the female lead in his scripted adventure. As soon as they get to the island, things go very much off-script when they discover natives sacrificing women as “brides of Kong” and that Skull Island is the land that time forgot, home to Kong, dinosaurs and all sorts of fun which they have to survive. Kong becomes infatuated with Ann. Eventually Denham captures Kong and brings him back to New York as spectacle. It all ends in a total disaster though when Kong busts out of his shackles, tries to get back his girl but ends up being shot and killed.
There have been two remakes of the original, Dino De Laurentiis’ King Kong in 1976 which featured Jessica Lange as Ann, then Peter Jackson’s King Kong in 2005 which had to be one of the worst films of that year, a very disappointing follow up by Jackson to his groundbreaking Lord of the Rings trilogy. Both of those remakes stuck to the same framework and story as the original. Now I’m happy to tell you that Kong: Skull Island, the third go-round for Kong, is a totally different reboot from production company Legendary Pictures and frankly, this one is the best of the lot.
Moved back in time to 1973, literally days after the end of the Vietnam War, the films starts with Bill Randa, played by John Goodman, as the head of a mysterious government project called Monarch who convinces a US Senator to assign him a military team to investigate a remote island in the Pacific which until now has remained completely hidden behind a wall of circular storms around the island. Not knowing exactly what they are going to encounter but knowing they are not up to the task of raw jungle exploration, Randa hires tracker James Conrad, played by Tom Hiddleston, and war photographer Mason Weaver, who everyone thinks is a man until Brie Larson shows up. Samuel L. Jackson is Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard, leading his helicopter squadron as the military component of the expedition. Now I’m not going to spoil anything about what happens next, but let’s just say that this movie wastes absolutely no time in getting right to the heart of the conflict on Skull Island. And it is awesome.
The great thing about Kong: Skull Island is this is a completely unabashed and wholly unapologetic throwback to Old School action/adventure films which were almost defined by the original King Kong and its remakes. While the story is very different, the look and feel of this film hearkens straight back to the adventure films of the 30s and 40s, updated with some modern social values and kick-ass digital effects. Hiddelston is the rogue action hero, Brie Larson not quite the classic damsel in distress but more like the damsel causing distress as she takes a lead role in figuring out how they are going to survive the Hell that is Skull Island. John C. Reilly is a great addition here as a World War II fighter pilot who actually crashed on Skull Island back in the day and has been stuck there waiting for rescue and surviving amongst the small human tribal population, while Samuel L. Jackson is…well, exactly what you think Samuel L. Jackson would be on Skull Island.
The thing I loved about this movie is how it does its just so thoroughly and so well. If you are going to a movie like this, you want to be amazed, delighted, impressed, caught up in the action and able to suspend your disbelief long enough to be thoroughly entertained. Kong does all of these things in truly grand style.
Technically, in terms of special effects and production design, the movie is distraction free. Whereas in the recent Matt Damon epic The Great Wall, I was rather unimpressed by the digital effects, in Skull Island they are damn near flawless. The monsters, and I do mean monsters, featured here are all freaky weird and freaky fun to watch and I totally believed in this ten-story tall gorilla from the very first moment he appears on screen. The acting is actually really good, especially from John C. Reilly who steals the show from Hiddelston and Jackson, except of course for when Kong is on screen. Because make no mistake – this movie is very definitely all about Kong and the work done to make him come to life is actually pretty stunning.
Kong: Skull Island is 100% pure popcorn entertainment and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m giving this one a rating of Sheer Awesomeness, because when it comes to the monster/action genre, that is what this movie is. If that is what you are in the mood for, you are almost guaranteed to have a great time. Let me know in the comments what you guys think. Also please do like and share this review around the interwebs as I’d like to grow this channel and I need your help to do it. Thanks for coming around, subscribe now and I’ll see you next time.