Kong: Skull Island is a monster of a movie! Read our movie review to get all the explosive action:Picture if you will a scene where a bearded John C. Reilly fights off pterodactyls with a Japanese sword. Now picture Samuel L. Jackson shooting a giant spider multiple times in the face with a pistol. Then picture King Kong slurping up the tentacles of a giant squid he just killed. These are the scenes that make Kong: Skull Island worthy of the B-movie, popcorn genre. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts realizes that these scenes are all ridiculous, but he also knew this is more or less what I came for in a King Kong movie.
It’s a giant monster movie for the seasoned veteran of giant monster movies, breezing through the familiar tropes to get to the titular ape as soon as possible. We’re quickly introduced to the humans of the early 1970s who discover the mysterious Skull Island and want to investigate.
There’s a team of scientists (John Goodman, Corey Hawkins) that hope to discover new resources on this island. There’s a seasoned explorer (Tom Hiddleston) hired to help guide the scientists through the uncharted territory. There’s a photojournalist (Brie Larson) along for the ride. And there’s the military called into aid in the expedition, led by a weary and bitter colonel (Samuel L. Jackson).
Not much character is given to any of them and most of their dialogue is forgettable filler. The initial dialogue between the soldiers that attempts to establish them as playful boys eager to return home is so inane and forgettable. They’d be better off painting targets on their backs as the inevitable fodder for an island full of monsters.
Thankfully, the movie knows we don’t care and barrels as fast as it can towards the reveal of Kong and all his glory. It isn’t too long into the movie before he starts smashing up helicopters, eating people and pounding his chest with a mighty roar. He doesn’t linger in the shadows or wait until nightfall for some grand reveals and he doesn’t need such an introduction.
King Kong is one of the most famous movie monsters in cinema history and he’s been rebooted more than once in many movies. The goal of Skull Island seems to be delivering as much Kong as possible and it doesn’t disappoint. From the very first scene, we see Kong from every angle: extreme close-ups from the unlucky soldiers he smashes, medium close-ups as the helicopters zoom around him and even full body shots as he stands ready to defend his island. It’s usually not a good idea to show too much of a movie monster for risk of it looking too silly or unbelievable. But with current computer graphics making any fantastical creature a reality, the filmmakers are justified in spending so much time with Kong.
After Kong smashes up the helicopters of the expedition, justified in doing so after they bomb his land, the humans regroup to make it to the other side of the island for their escort. Naturally, they’ll be picked off over the course of their adventure by plenty of nasty monsters crawling all over the island. Most of the creatures are pretty fun on a grotesque level, from a giant stick bug that conceals itself as a log to a spider that hides among the trees before stabbing, slurping and snapping its prey.
There are many deaths throughout the picture and it’s hilarious how they vary in tone. A scientist will be picked up by pterodactyls and ripped to shreds in the sky. Most of the group brushes it off as there was nothing that could be done. Only one of them speaks up in a seemingly running gag for reacting to deaths-by-monster, questioning why nobody is going to talk about how horrific it was to watch something so gruesome. But what’s there to talk about? A monster murdered a man and many more will die in a manner either tragic or hilarious, as is customary of a giant monster movie. Such is the life on the island of monsters.
There isn’t much going on with the human characters or their arcs, even with the inclusion of John C. Reilly as a stranded pilot living on the island for decades. The real star of the picture is Kong and rightly so. Any scene featuring the giant ape is wonderfully shot with plenty of explosions to provide some great lighting. One of the best looking shots of the whole film features Kong roaring at the soldiers in the moonlight, the orange glow of the fires clashing beautifully with the blue night sky. The filmmakers are not only fearless enough to give us plenty of Kong, but also present him in the most spectacular moments of staging.