Media Matters: Kong: Skull Island (2017, Rated: PG-13)
Kong: Skull Island (2017, Rated: PG-13)
Mark my words: If a monster movie this smart, good-looking, and fun fails to land with audiences or critics then maybe big dumb behemoths like Jurassic World are the only ones we deserve.
Taking the opposite approach to Gareth Edward’s Godzilla, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts bathes his 100-foot ape in broad daylight and introduces him early on, trading high tension suspense for explosive mayhem. It is fortunate then that Kong and the island he rules over as king are brilliantly designed and expertly rendered in special effects so awe-inspiring that I never once questioned them, even for a moment. The script by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein smartly decides to forgo another introduction of a monster that has been a part of our cultural lexicon for 80 years and instead drops us right into the carnage with a breathtaking battle between Kong and a fleet of helicopters that is so harrowing and visceral that it is not only the best scene to ever feature the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, it might actually be the best ten minutes in any B-movie of its kind. The story which unfolds after that initial attack pays homage to the films that came before while still proudly blazing its own path through intense, well-executed action fueled by winning characters and wicked sense of humor, (even if Vogt-Roberts does indulge in a couple slow-mo sequence and first-person camera tricks too many).
Obviously I had a blast with Kong: Skull Island, but I am not so diluted as to ignore its monster-sized flaws. The narrative COMPLETELY wastes talented actors like Tom Hiddleston (who looks every bit our next James Bond in his fitted action wear and shoulder holster), Brie Larson, and John Goodman (who does, at least, get in a few good lines). On the other hand, John C. Reilly steals the show as a World War II pilot stranded on the island for nearly 30 years and Samuel L. Jackson looks to be having a blast chewing through the jungle scenery as an Army Colonel and type of Captain Ahab reeling from defeat (or abandonment) in Vietnam. Setting the story just after the Paris Peace Accords allows the movie to be topical without edging toward political and grants Jackson a believable purpose in his quest for victory against this particularly monstrous white whale. Unfortunately, his soldiers become less characters and more caricatures as the film marches on. Also, much like the MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, naturally) in 2014’s Godzilla, the villainous monsters threatening to overrun Skull Island – and eventually the world – are not nearly as interesting for menacing as the marquee monsters themselves. Thankfully, a post-credit sequence teases the introduction of some other iconic monsters in the upcoming Godzilla sequel, all leading up to the main event: Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020.
Caution Rating: 8
For prominent profanity, non-stop violence that stretches the limits of the PG-13 rating (occasionally comes off as mean-spirited), and several gruesome deaths, a few played for laughs. So yeah, I loved it, but be cautious with it around your kids.