Think of the classic telling and retelling of King Kong; a team on an expedition to the last uncharted spot on the map winds up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then a blonde screams and gets taken prisoner by the ape.
In this age of the heroine, we needed a Kong film fit for a queen. Like most of the remakes/reboots, Kong: Skull Island has our blonde, but she’s a dirty blonde! Strides! Also, there’s ANOTHER WOMAN in the film. And she’s a Chinese scientist! Literally everyone else is a man.
Baby steps, I ‘spose.
After Government Agent, Bill Randa (John Goodman), receives the go-ahead and the funding to journey to the ominous yet aptly named, Skull Island — cause it looks like a skull — he enlists former British Special Air Service Captain, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), as well as the Sky Devils — a helicopter outfit led by Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Randa quickly gets the mission underway before anyone can change their minds.
Along for the ride is peacemonger and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who is wary of the operation and suspects that Randa may have ulterior motives. Why would Randa need a super-savvy guy like Conrad just to see an island and investigate whether the ground is hollow or not?
Much like entering the ocean and then being surprised that you got bitten by a shark, treading on Kong’s turf proves quickly to be a big mistake. With good reason — i.e. helicopters dropping bombs all over the island — the titular primate swats the choppers out of the sky like mosquitoes.
The survivors — being split up after getting batted to the jungle floor — are now mostly in mutual agreement that they need to find the others and get to the pick up point in time to GTFO. Only now Lt. Col. Preston Packard has a personal and largely maniacal vendetta to settle with Kong for the loss of his men.
Somewhere on the other side of the island, Conrad, Weaver, and a smattering of folks who probably just haven’t been killed by any number of the island’s monstrous inhabitants yet, stumble upon something remarkable; Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), an American pilot who crashed on the island in 1944, and is now living amongst the Iwi locals. Marlow gives the group the low down on Island politics, revealing that Kong isn’t the one they need to be worried about.
Skullcrawlers — as he’s named them — are the true beasts on the island, and Kong manages to protect his home and its native people/critters from them, earning him the King title. He works for it, and I, for one, am proud of him.
Marlow, like the rest of the group, just wants to make it home in one piece. The poor guy just wants to head home to Chicago and catch a Cubs game with a hotdog and a beer. Packard, however, has a debt to settle, and his abusive power trip may just spell the end of their beautiful lives.
It is around this time that Mason works out some facts and figures and discovers that she was right and her worst fears are confirmed. One thing though; being right means literally nothing if you are dead.
For as much as I didn’t give this movie a second thought before its release, I sure did enjoy it. It’s a departure from the previous films, painting Kong as a hero, not a villain. I wish he had a Megalodon sidekick. How incredible would that be? They just meet up every so often and give each other a nod. So neat.
This movie is an unexpected treat. Much like the others, we get a glimpse of the real Kong; he’s a pretty chill guy as long as you’re not throwing explosives at his face. Historically, this franchise imparts a message topical at literally every stage of our existence which is that men think they either own or can just take whatever they please.
So you found this creature who was minding his own business, just eating stuff and scratching himself — essentially YOU on the weekends — and you take it upon yourselves to remove him from his home so you can show your idiot friends. That, or you determine you have no choice but to kill him.
Skull Island is gratifying in many ways. It’s always fun to see what lives on the island with Kong, and this one delivers creepy crawlies and then some. Visually, the film exceeds expectations; cinematography in a film so reliant on effects can be spotty at best, but they really nailed it.
Also, there is no damsel in distress. The blonde dame gets roughed up just like everybody else but she handles herself and stands on her own two. We even get a nod to the previous installments in which we see the softer side of Kong in regard to Mason.
As your resident score junkie, I’m pleased to report that Henry Jackman composed music fit for a King… Kong. (please send help)
All in all, it’s an enjoyable film. Fun, exciting, and John C. is laugh we all need throughout. I imagine he improvised 90% of his lines in this film, and the other actors deserve accolades just for holding character in scenes with him. The best part of the experience was hearing my mom gush about how “hot” Tom Hiddleston is. I know, mom. I know.
Pro tip: stick around after the credits.