By Bradley Griffith
Kong is once again king, of the box office. The latest version of the gargantuan ape hit theaters with a bang, bringing in almost double industry forecasts. While it exceeded box-office expectations, this is a movie that gives you exactly what you expect from a Kong movie.
In 1973 the Vietnam War is essentially over with military personnel withdrawing from the battlefield and returning home. Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) doesn’t want to go home. He is the commander of a helicopter squadron with orders to return home, before he gladly receives one final mission.
Packard’s squadron is to transport a team of scientists led by Bill Randa (John Goodman) onto a previously uncharted speck in the ocean known as Skull Island. The island is surrounded by a perpetual lightning storm, meaning that no one had actually seen the island until a satellite picture showed Skull Island to be as peaceful as the eye of a hurricane.
Also on the expedition is former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) as the expedition’s tracker and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who calls herself an anti-war photographer. Conrad has become a mercenary who joins the expedition only for a hefty sum of money. Mason believes she is going to reveal a massive government operation with her camera.
When the helicopter squadron makes it through the storm surrounding the island they think the hard part is over. Until they see Kong, an ape over 100 feet tall and filled with rage. The choppers are trespassing on his turf. Kong easily destroys all the helicopters and the survivors are spread across the island.
Conrad leads one group toward the north end of the island to meet the helicopters that are to serve as their exfiltration plan in three days while Packard wants revenge against Kong for killing his men. But Kong is not the only danger that lurks around every corner on Skull Island.
“Skull Island” closely follows its predecessors in that it’s big, bold, and loud. It’s an adventure movie with action in almost every scene. Many types of giant creatures are on the island, and just about all of them want to kill the expedition team. From enormous spiders to giant water buffaloes, everything about the Skull Island ecosystem is huge. The best scenes of the film involve giant creatures battling each other.
It’s very reminiscent of 2005’s “King Kong” starring Naomi Watts and Jack Black. In that movie a group of people travel to a remote island that many say doesn’t exist to find a giant ape, but when they get there they find many more giant problems. Maybe Kong needs other giants as his adversary to make it interesting, but the plot of “Skull Island” has been done before.
Samuel L. Jackson overacts the part of Colonel Packard. Every Kong film has a human nemesis, but attempting to stare down a giant gorilla with nothing to fight back with but a stern look on your face seems a bit ridiculous. On the other hand, Corey Hawkins is very good in his supporting role as a young scientist along for the ride and John C. Reilly provides much-needed comic relief as a pilot who was trapped on the island since World War II.
Anyone who has seen any of the Kong films knows that a recurring theme is that Kong is not the villain. He’s just misunderstood. That is also the case in “Skull Island.” In fact, there’s not a lot of originality in the movie.
What the movie does contain is great special effects with ample amounts of explosions, adventure, and giant beasts battling to the death. It’s Kong updated with new technology, with better special effects and great action scenes, which is what makes “Skull Island” worth seeing. If you enjoy this type of movie, it’s worth seeing on the big screen.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language.