“Kong: Skull Island” is everything a person wants from a good creature feature. In fact, it had the tone and approach that the 2014 “Godzilla” should have had.
Unlike some of the other “Kong” adaptations, this film doesn’t take place in the early 1930s. Additionally, the purpose isn’t to capture Kong to be put on display. Instead, this film takes place in the days after the Vietnam War, and tells the story of an expedition going to a recently discovered island. The expedition crew is made up with a variety of backgrounds, including a scientist who convinced officials to make the journey happen named Bill Randa (John Goodman), a war photographer named Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a special operative turned tracker, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and a military commander Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson).
Together, along with numerous other personnel, they make it to the mysterious island. However, they soon learn that they’re not at the top of the food change, as almost immediately Kong makes his presence known. While some of the group opt to get off the island in any way possible after the giant ape attacks, Packard makes it his mission to take revenge for the loss of his men.
“Skull Island” is a movie that doesn’t waste a lot of time. It gives the audience just the right amount of set up for the characters before launching them to the dangerous terrain and into Kong’s path. It ultimately sets up a great climax for the first act, when the characters come face to face with Kong for the first time.
From there on out, the film is solidly structured to balance the aspects of some of the characters learning about the island and what Kong really is along with the other characters who view it and everything else on the island as monsters that need to be destroyed.
In the end it all leads into an exciting finale where an audience can root for multiple likable characters who’ve been fairly well developed along with Kong. On top of containing a well paced story, “Skull Island” also bolsters some great nods to its classic counterparts. Some are more subtle than others, but they’re all done at a good level.
The picture does have a detriment that shows up through much of the runtime, though, and that comes in the form of the humor featured. While some of it does in fact work, such as John C. Reilly’s character Hank, a WWII pilot who crashed on the island and asks questions about what happened since, the rest of it doesn’t really. For example, there’s quite a bit of banter between the soldiers in the picture and it misses the mark most of the time.
Fortunately, though, this issue can be overlooked for the most part thanks to the performances featured in the movie. No, none of these are award caliber or anywhere close to it, but they fit the mold for a creature/adventure.
The leading performers, Hiddleston, Jackson, Goodman and Larson all put energy into this project and they lend their characters some good personality. This is especially true for Jackson and Goodman, two classic character actors who fit like a glove here.
Hiddleston is also solid as the classic protagonist who seems to be a loner at first but shows leadership skills as the story goes along. Larson and Reilly do a good job rounding out the cast, too.
The star of the entire film, though, is the visual appeal. The picture features exciting combat and fantastic special effects to bring the setting to life, but more than that, there are a lot of steps taken to just make it a treat to look at.
For example, there’s a scene where Packard and Kong stare each other down and it goes along way in telling what’s going to happen without having a word spoken. Also, while CGI might not ever look 100 percent real, Kong looked extraordinary here, probably the best he’s ever been. There’s a moment where he drinks from a lake and causes massive waves and it looks great.
Not all of the humor works and there are plenty of generic creature feature cliches, but “Kong: Skull Island” is a fun time at the theater with some likable characters who have personality and incredible action. 4.2 out of 5.