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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

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Kong Skull Island

Kong Skull IslandStarring John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts


Get ready for some explorer horror with the latest in a long line of King Kong movies, Kong: Skull Island, from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) and scribes Dan Gilroy (best known for writing and directing Nightcrawler) and Max Borenstein (Godzilla). While it’s one of many to riff on the story of the gargantuan gorilla since the original opus of 1933, it emerges among the most entertaining. (Though I must admit to having a soft spot for the schlocky 1976 version starring Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, and Jessica Lange.)

Although most of the action is set in the early 1970s (there’s a blaring jukebox of classic acid rock with a whole lotta John Fogerty), the opening frames of the film feature a fight between two World War II soldiers – one American and one Japanese – that’s so exciting you might wonder if your knuckles could get any whiter. But that is, indeed, just the beginning of an ever-mounting action-packed adventure.

The story begins in earnest when government researcher Bill Randa (Goodman) gets his superiors to sign off on an expensive, unorthodox expedition. A mishmash of scientists, soldiers, and pencil-pushers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean that Randa insists hides sinister secrets that his troop will succeed in uncovering.

Cut off from everything they know, their mission of discovery becomes one of immense danger; and they are soon forced to escape from a primal world where modern-day man does not belong. Not to mention modern-day woman – Brie Larson is sorta-kinda the Fay Wray of the picture, but fortunately she’s not subjected to any amorous advances (not from the ape or her ostensible love interest, played by Tom Hiddleston).

Larson is Weaver, a seasoned war photojournalist and peace activist, while Hiddleston plays Captain James Conrad, a former British SAS officer and current soldier of fortune. She shoots with her camera, while he totes a military rifle. So does the cast’s other heavy-hitter, Samuel L. Jackson, as Packard, a hawkish Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army. He leads a bold and brash entrance into Skull Island’s airspace with a hail of helicopters, a bevy of bombs, and a score of soldiers to announced their arrival. Kong is not amused, and the carnage commences.

Kong himself is a CGI creation (sorry, Harryhausen purists!), but he looks similar to the simian of the original film, with just a few flourishes to make him more menacing. He’s imbued with an air of intellect but isn’t anthropomorphized in any way. The hulking beast is seen early on and throughout – you definitely get your popcorn’s worth. There’s a fantastic fight between the island’s strongest monsters that’s sure to leave fanboys breathless. (Oh, and yes, kaiju buffs, there’s something here for you, too.)

When it comes to the human characters in Kong: Skull Island, I thought they were all well-drawn as far as backstory and personality traits – even though a good number of them provide blood-n-guts for bloodthirsty cinephiles, none are cardboard cutouts. (And yes, they all die spectacularly.) John C. Reilly, in particular, adds depth and dimension to the tale as Ralph Marlow, a WWII solider who was stranded on Skull Island back in the 1940s.

I saw an early screening in 2D, so I can only imagine how much more exciting it’s going to be when it’s released in 3D and IMAX 3D. Although it’s rated PG-13, it certainly pushes the boundaries – there’s some cursing, eviscerations aplenty, and fairly intense moments of suspense (it’s on par with the Jurassic Park films in terms of gore, but turned up just a notch). Older kids will definitely be first in line to see Kong conquer all.

While I can’t say yet whether Kong: Skull Island is the spectacle of the season, it certainly does provide giant-sized entertainment, violence, and thrills.

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User Rating 3.26 (19 votes)

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