I still vividly remember the first time I saw the original King Kong (1933). I was roughly ten years old, and Jurassic Park had just arrived on the big screen. Like most other children at the time, I was enthralled with Spielberg’s dinosaur blockbuster, and immediately began to seek out any and all “giant monster” creature features of a similar vein. I had already been introduced to the Godzilla series, but I began to discover the work of Ray Harryhausen, the Japanese Gamera series, and other films like Hammer’s One Million Years B.C. Upon discovering my newfound interest in the genre, my Father insisted that I give the 1933 version of Kong a fair chance too. Though I will admit that to a 10 year-old fresh off the technical wizardry showcased in Jurassic Park, the stop-motion animation and combined puppetry of the original was, at first, seemed rightfully dated. But then something happened: the heartbreaking story, Fay Wray’s genuine performance, and the emotion-filled wonder behind the giant ape himself drew me in completely.
Fast forward to 2017 and several remakes later, Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts Kong: Skull Island, simply put, is the most unique entry in the long-running series ever to grace the silver screen. It’s also the first must-see blockbuster of 2017. The various remakes and reimagined versions of the classic Kong Tale (“‘twas beauty that killed the beast”) have long grown tiring, and Skull Island delivers the goods to viewers who want an original monster epic while staying true to the legendary ape we all know and love. With incredible action pieces, fleshed out and interesting characters from an all-star ensemble, and perhaps most surprising of all, a wonderful sense of humor, Kong Skull Island is an old-school adventure film that will delight viewers young and old.
In this latest Kong entry, it’s 1973 and American involvement in the Vietnam War has come to an end. For special operation Monarch chief Bill Randa (John Goodman), this presents a latch ditch opportunity for his failing government division to hitch a ride with Colonel Preston Packard’s (Samuel L. Jackson) military outfit to nearby Skull Island in an attempt to make a unique scientific discovery. The Monarch intel claims that there may be an as yet undiscovered ecosystem behind the thick chaotic storm ring that surrounds the island. Along for the ride are rugged animal tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who along with the Military crew, quickly discover that there is much more to this island than any of them ever imagined!
Kong is bigger, badder, and more majestic than ever before. The only difference being that this time around, the focus is less about the ape king himself, and more about the colorful crew’s conflicts, hidden intentions, and eventual camaraderie as they navigate the unknown in this dangerous lost world. Kong soon proves to be less of a threat and more of a savior when our human protagonists meet the underworld-dwelling Kaiju “Skull Crawlers” that have terrorized the island for years. With a time sensitive rescue operation underway, the crew must make their way to the edge of the island before his majesty, or the pursuing skull crawler monsters, bring an end to them all.
Unlike previous Kong films, Skull Island somehow manages to not only get right to the action, but expertly weaves surprisingly solid character development throughout the masterful assault on the senses. It’s also, as I stated above, a sincerely funny film filled with laugh-out-loud moments, especially from the character of Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a former WWII pilot that has been stranded on Skull Island for far too long. Personally, I found the humor to be a welcome change in contrast to the traditionally serious Kong films of yesteryear. It’s a delicate balance for certain, but the filmmakers have managed to achieve it; delivering a solid action-adventure film sprinkled with some B-movie silliness that somehow manages to never veer into camp or parody territory. It will be interesting to see how Legendary and Warner Bros. manage to pair this style with the more dreadfully serious tone of 2014’s Godzilla in the eventual creature feature mash-up.
With that being said, I highly recommend Kong Skull Island for those seeking a cinematic adventure on a grand scale, and be sure to see it in 3D, as the visuals presented are truly a sight to behold.