Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are heads of a program called Monarch. As the Vietnam War is ending, they are seeking government approval and funding to explore an uncharted island in the Pacific.
Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), not looking forward to returning home after the war, accepts the call to lead the military escort for Randa and Brooks. Packard brings along his group of soldiers to join the mission. Along with the military escort, Randa and Brooks hire expert tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to help with anything they may encounter. Also tagging along is “anti-war” photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to document the excursion.
When they arrive on Skull Island, they come face to face with Kong, a giant gorilla. As Kong effortlessly swats the helicopters from the sky, the team gets separated. Packard and his crew set out to find other wounded soldiers.
Conrad, Brooks, and Weaver head towards the rendezvous point at the north end of the island. Along the way, they meet Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly). Hank is a pilot who was shot down during World War I and has spent his life on the island. He agrees to help them make it to their destination in hopes of finally returning home.
The groups must survive the horrors of the island if they want to be rescued from Skull Island.
“Monster” movies tend to be hit or miss. The original King Kong and Godzilla movies are campy, which makes them fun. The fact that these are the Kong/Godzilla movies most of us grew up with make them classics. Modern attempts at rebooting or continuing the stories try to make them more realistic. Many times, they come across as cheesy and don’t hold up to the standard we have set in our minds. Kong: Skull Island takes the “realistic” approach and shows us just how terrifying this situation would be. Fortunately, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Samuel L. Jackson is exactly what we expect from him. He plays Samuel L. Jackson, only on an island with gigantic creatures. It works well for the film. Tom Hiddleston, as a skilled tracker, helps his group survive, but he’s not given enough to do, nor is his character’s resolve strong enough. It’s not his fault. The script calls for him to abandon his own plans to follow questionable orders given by a superior. I was expecting Brie Larson to become the typical damsel in distress. While this does happen to some extent, it isn’t the defining trait of her character. The standout of the film is John C. Reilly. His character provides the necessary narrative for the history of the island. Hank has been there most of his life so he knows the lore and the layout of the island. In true John C. Reilly style, he provides just the right amount of comic relief. His character is what keeps the film from taking itself seriously.
The visual effects are quite amazing. From the subtle movements in Kong’s face to the colossal creature battle at the end, everything is well executed. Visually, the whole film is a treat.
Kong: Skull Island is a refreshing take on the modern giant monster movie. With enough action and comedy to keep things interesting. I would definitely recommend seeing it in the theater to fully appreciate the 100 foot tall Kong. Make sure you stick around for the post credits scene to know where they are going to take the story.