Movie Review: "Kong: Skull Island" (2017)
I'll start with a statement for the sake of transparency: I fucking love me some damn King Kong. Ever since I was a wee little Carolina bumpkin I've been fascinated by the giant ape. He's iconic. He's a critical part of Americana. He's the King.
The truth of being a total mark is two-fold: you are either going to love everything associated with it or you'll be uber critical (I'm talking to you, Star Wars & Star Trek fans). I like to think that I do a pretty solid job of being objective and walking that fine line. Thankfully, relative newcomer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts made this one easy for me.
There's no need to be overly critical here: this is one hell of a kick-ass monster movie. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that they learned some lessons from the disappointment that was 2014's "Godzilla". My main complaints on that film were 1. not enough Godzilla, 2. a nonsensical plot that stumbled around and didn't develop properly while taking away from the monster action, & 3. a generic nemesis for the big lizard.
They truly did a 180. You get Kong right out of the gate on this one, and they don't let up. He's beautifully rendered, ferocious, & intense (but also quite emotive). There are a host of other nasties sharing Skull Island with him....and they don't fuck around either. They really want you to know that they love big-ass monsters. They're giving you what you want. It's damn refreshing.
To do you one better, you've got a fantastic cast and a well-developed story. Samuel L. Jackson (the black guy from every movie ever) is doing his best Colonel Kurtz impersonation as the rogue nut Lt. Col. Preston Packard. Tom Hiddleston (Loki from "The Avengers" series) is, well, Tom Hiddleston. Does he ever NOT kill it? Brie Larson ("Room") is note-perfect (and fine as hell) as the idealistic anti-war photographer, Mason Weaver. John C. Reilly ("Talladega Nights") provides much-needed comic relief as Hark Marlow, a pilot who's been stuck on Skull Island since WWII. John Goodman is the scientific mind behind the expedition, along with rising star Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre from "Straight Outta Compton"). Supporting roles give us Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E from "Straight Outta Compton"), Shea Whigham (the criminally underrated Eli Thompson from "Boardwalk Empire"), & a small part by Richard Jenkins ("Cabin in the Woods"). That's a cubic fuckton of star power and acting chops in one movie.
The thing that hit me in the face right away, though, was how good this one is as a Vietnam-era setpiece. The soundtrack is used seamlessly and effectively to highlight the action and the transitions from serious to deadly to comical and back again. I'm a sucker for a good 'Nam movie. They don't get all heavy-handed and beat you about the head with the underlying messages. They don't have to. We're all pretty familiar with the anti-war theme, but it's intermingled very deftly with the "from the soldier's perspective" side of things, too. And every monster flick should have the "don't tamper with shit you don't understand" message. It's standard (but necessary) fare.
I suppose I'm just very encouraged when a movie is made and it's clear that the filmmakers have a real affection for the subject matter AND an ear to listen to what the audience wants. This is the Kong that you want. It delivers on every level.
By the way, stick around through the credits for a stinger that'll straight up get your dick hard. I wish I could say more, but I'm trying to stay spoiler-free (because I'm a hell of a considerate guy like that).
IMDB gives it a 7.1/10 based on user ratings. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 79% on the Tomatometer with a 76% Audience Score. I'm giving it a solid 8.5/10.
I told you I was a bit of a mark, didn't I?