Let me get one thing out of the way before getting into Kong: Skull Island that might be a deal breaker for some of you. If you’re expecting
anything resembling the 1933 classic go back and revisit Peter Jackson’s flawed but admirable cinematic love letter from 2005. However if you’re looking for something closer in spirit to the Toho Kong movies like King Kong vs Godzilla or King Kong Escapes, then with great pleasure I can tell you you’ve come to the right place. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts does an impressive job of raising Kong’s mythology to new heights with rich world building and keeps the movie flowing with a massive cast of colorful characters that may not all have room to shine, but are certainly never dull.

We’re introduced to this new iconic incarnation of Kong immediately during a flashback sequence set during the 1940’s and this design aesthetic works beautifully.
The simple and massive design gives him a distinct and unforgettable presence and he wastes no time at all unleashing carnage among those who dare burden his home. Flash forward to the 1973 after President Nixon announces the end of the Vietnam War, we meet Monarch agents Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) convincing a US senator (Richard Jenkins) to finance their expedition to Skull Island and just like that they recruit some gung ho troops led by Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), basically the Captain Ahab of the story, an anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), the tracker. Roberts is obviously lifting themes from Apocalypse Now, though the overall tone could draw closer comparisons to Tropic Thunder and I don’t say this as a negative because trust me after adjusting to the tone that Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein’s script goes for, I couldn’t possibly see this movie working any other way.

The 1970s rock soundtrack works well for Skull Island’s tone and pace, I at first thought that the cliché Creedence Clearwater was a bit overkill after the second track, but a friend offered his opinion after the screening that perhaps there were only a couple of albums these soldiers had to listen to and well, I can certainly buy that, I mean why not? When we get to the introduction of Hank Marlow, a World War II Lieutenant stranded on Skull Island for the last 28 years with the Iwi natives, John C. Reilly not only steals the movie but is absolutely the heart and soul. His character is not only absolutely hilarious, but ends up being very touching and the one that actually ends up deserving the most empathy. The wide exotic landscape and imaginative monster designs that populate this exciting all-out creature slobber-knocker shows Roberts’ influences he proudly wears on his sleeves from Harryhausen to Miyazaki. Terry Notary deserves recognition for his motion capture performance for Kong, he previously worked with Andy Serkis in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and has a promising future ahead of him for sure.

To sum up Kong: Skull Island in a nutshell, this is the movie looking to scratch that monster movie itch in ways that Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla didn’t and unless you’ve been living under a rock, that statement should carry some weight for those anticipating where this franchise is headed. That being said, make sure you stay till the very end of the credits and I guarantee every kaiju fan will have something to cheer about. If a period piece Kong movie that’s not afraid to be silly and would fit right at home in the universe of Pacific Rim sounds like your bag, (It certainly was mine) don’t walk to this movie, run dammit.

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Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan is a freelance film journalist and is the founder of Movie Time And Beyond. His passion for movies and pop culture knows no limits.