Kong: Skull Island is a perfect example of taking a well-known property with what many consider a perfect and untouchable story, and making it your own. It’s as though the filmmaker thought, “if you can’t beat em’, make up your own rules.” In doing so, Kong: Skull Island asks: what if you took King Kong and mashed it together with Apocalypse Now? Ditching the damsel in distress and skyscrapers for napalm and rock n’ roll? Fortunately, the results are a bombastic and exhilarating blockbuster that manages to stand tall on it’s two giant ape feet.
Bill Randa (John Goodman) leads the expedition to Skull Island after satellites detect an uninhabited island. He quickly acquires a military escort from a far too eager Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his platoon, as well as the man-for-hire, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). Additionally, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), an anti-war photographer, tags along to document the expedition to Skull Island. Almost everyone but Conrad seems to have an agenda.
The film handles it’s characters with surprising care. Each character is given just enough moments to make the audience care about what happens to them. There are two particular standouts though: Preston Packard and Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly). Preston has an unquenchable hunger for conflict, while Hank is a half-crazed (but hilarious) man out of time that elevates the movie.
The film wastes no time getting the group to the terrible Skull Island. Not only that, but within mere moments of arriving, the film gets turned up to eleven as Kong assaults the group without warning. This encapsulates one of my favorite things about this film: it doesn’t waste time. This isn’t Peter Jackson’s King Kong that lasts three hours because it has to delve into every minutiae. Kong: Skull Island jumps to what the audience came to see: giant monsters, explosions, and more giant monsters. It’s an exciting movie the entire way through, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.
This may sound like faint praise, a movie not overstaying it’s welcome, but it’s not. Blockbusters have a tendency to be filled with self-indulgent bloat, especially movies that rely on CGI as much as Skull Island. Thankfully, a combination of well-crafted characters, excellent action sequences, and interesting environments keep the film afloat for what feels like a breezy two hours.
Kong: Skull Island is refreshing in all the right ways. It’s got a surprising amount of heart, story, and characters. While none of these are revolutionary, they work well enough to make you to care about the action and even King Kong. This is a giant monster movie done right, and I can’t wait to see what they do when it crosses-over with Godzilla in 2020. Oh, and stay for the post-credits sequence. You’ll be thanking me.
************Spoiler Warning for Post-Credits*********
Last Chance to turn back. Alright, here we go. While we knew that Kong was crossing-over with Godzilla, the post-credits sequence reveals that there’s a lot more to the cross-over than initially thought. The post credits scene reveals that King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan will all be a part of the upcoming crossover. Interestingly enough, we only seem to know that King Ghidorah will be a villain for sure. We will have to wait and see who is good and who is bad. For an avid monster movie fan like myself though, this was the equivalent of Nick Fury's appearance after the first Iron Man. Needless to say, I’m beyond excited.
If you want to talk theories, I'd be happy to oblige. I'm on twitter @AlCornett.