KONG: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island is an epic size apocalyptic creature feature that relishes in its grand visual spectacle. Not since Peter Jackson’s remake of the classic King Kong (2005) and Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (2013) have we seen such awesome digital monster clashes.

Set in 1973 Vietnam War era, the psychedelic music of the 70s drug culture sets the tone for an appropriate mythic adventure of destruction and discovery. Swarms of Huey military helicopters heading into the eye of the storm, a makeshift boat cruising down jungle rivers into the heart of darkness all evoking a fond homage to Apocalypse Now (1979).

This is not a retelling of the classic King Kong beauty and the beast story but more a reimagining of and continuation of the Kong legacy. The film gets off to a stunning start with a W.W. II airplane battle between an American and Japanese pilot who crash on the undiscovered island in 1944 that could be the start of a new Indiana Jones movie.

Fast forward 29 years into the future where a government official Bill Randa (John Goodman) is putting together a secret task force of soldiers, mercenaries and scientists to find an as yet undiscovered mysterious island thought to be a black hole into which many a plane have disappeared.

The expedition, under the guise of a geological survey team, to locate and scout the uncharted island hidden from satellites by a perpetual hurricane that surrounds it, starts out in spectacular fashion that brings together a group of unusual international characters not unlike the animated Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001).

Soon everyone is running through the jungle to Creedance Clearwater Revival and helicopters are swooping down unloading their lethal ordinance in a ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ style Vietnam War montage that explodes with operatic energy and is one of the films highlights.

A heady hybrid of jungle warfare and colossal monster films colliding in stunning awesomeness, Kong is visually glorious and a blast to watch even before we see the first Jurassic glimpses of Skull Island creating an energy and momentum that will delight even the most skeptical fan boys and girls. Even the poster is a mashup of Apocalypse Now’s sunset with Kong’s silhouette standing in for Marlon Brando’s head.

Brie Larson is well cast here as brave strong-willed heroine Mason Weaver, an independent anti-war photographer who discovers that Kong has taken a shine to her and may not be the most dangerous creature on the island. 

John C. Reilly’s comic performance as Hank Marlow, a stranded W.W. II pilot who has survived by befriending the natives of the Island almost steals the show in a role that’s equivalent to the one played by Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now. Most of the other characters are underdeveloped, serving mostly as fodder for Kong who is definitely the stand out star of the show.

Made by the producers of Garth Edwards Godzilla (2014) and directed by newcomer Jordan Vogt-Roberts - Kings of Summer (2013), this film is poised to start a new franchise of heroic large scale creature brawl films where the new digital age of monster effects dominates the landscape.

Kong: Skull Island gets the summer block buster season off to a great start if you’re looking for nostalgia and escapist adventure on a grand scale.