Finally, a reboot with a unique story. The original King Kong (1933) was one of the greatest monster movies ever made. It spawned not one, but two remakes telling pretty much the same story. A filmmaker wants to shoot animals so he travels with a large crew to a remote island where his lead actress is kidnapped by a giant gorilla. He brings the gorilla back to New York where it climbs the Empire State Building. Not this time! Kong: Skull Island scored major points for creativity by telling an entirely new story. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer 2013) and written by John Gatins (Summer Catch 2001), the combined effort brought a much-needed breath of fresh air to the Kong franchise.
The story is set in the year 1973 and has a lot of appropriate music of the time period, which leads to a great soundtrack. Monarch Corporation’s Bill Randa (John Goodman: 10 Cloverfield Lane 2016) and his partner Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins: The Walking Dead TV series) want to lead an expedition to an uncharted island for geological purposes. He gets the go-ahead to enlist Colonel Packard (Samuel L Jackson: EVERYTHING) and his men, led by Major Chapman (Toby Kebbell: Fantastic Four 2015), Mills (Jason Mitchell: Straight Outta Compton 2015), Slivko (Thomas Mann: Beautiful Creatures 2013), Cole (Shea Whigham: The Wolf of Wall Street 2013) and Reles (Eugene Cordero: Ghostbusters 2016).
He also brings along a group of civilians including scientist San (Tian Jing: The Great Wall 2016), photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Lawson: Room 2015) and master survivalist James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston: The Avengers 2012) for the expedition. When the entire team is together, Randa says Skull Island has been hidden due to inclement weather for many years, swallowing ships and planes throughout time. Packard’s men are to fly via choppers through the hurricane like weather to the island where they will begin to explore. At this point, many of the characters are introduced with witty dialogue. Character development is always a good thing.
We’re finally introduced to Kong when Packard and Randa set off seismic charges on the island. The monstrous Kong begins wiping out the choppers until none are left. Two small bands of stragglers remain after the onslaught: Packard, Randa, Cole, Reles, Mills and the scientists, and Conrad, Weaver, Slivko, Brooks and San. Chapman is by himself and Packard’s mission is to find him before trying to meet up with the others.
What makes this movie so great at this point is it forgoes the original Kong monsters of the dinosaur family for new ones. Conrad’s team stumbles upon a village deep in the woods where they meet Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly: The Perfect Storm 2000), a World War 2 pilot who crashed there in 1944. Marlow gives the history of the island which I won’t spoil, but its really good. Meanwhile, Packard pulls a gun on Randa and demands to know why they are really there. Once again I won’t spoil it, but it’s also a great story.
The CGI monsters need to be addressed. We get a giant bull, a giant spider, pterodactyls, and the islands main monsters, Skull Crawlers. The Crawlers look deadly and are ruthless, perfect villains for Kong. The humans are really no match for the Crawlers so they must work with Kong by the end in order to survive.
The acting in this movie is phenomenal. The characters we’re supposed to care about are developed nicely and draw you in. It’s interesting to see Tom Hiddleston play the good guy for once but he pulls it off well. His chemistry with Brie Lawson is great as she’s less the damsel in distress but more an equal. The one who steals the show is John C. Reilly – his character has a lot of depth and is one of the funniest in the whole movie. The CGI is pretty good and for once the natives aren’t portrayed as cannibals, clowns or kidnappers. In my review, I wrote that the original King Kong would be politically incorrect by 2017 standards. Kong: Skull Island has no such problems. Everyone from all sides of the political spectrum will be able to enjoy this.
All in all, it’s well worth it to give Kong: Skull Island a look. It has great acting, a fantastic soundtrack, a wonderful story, CGI that’s actually competent and humorous dialogue. Also, don’t even think about leaving the theater until after the credits are over. You’ll miss a sneak preview for an upcoming movie that fans have been waiting to see for a long, long time. Well, what are you waiting for? Go see Kong: Skull Island!