Here at Everything Action, we tell it like it is. We don’t see movies based on how many awards we think they’ll win. We like movies that make you want to crack a beer and shove popcorn into your face… Like Kong: Skull Island. With that said, don’t expect this to be a snarky bash-fest about crap real moviegoers don’t really care about.
So, let’s talk Kong!
First thing’s first, I saw this movie in IMAX 3D. And I suggest you do the same. The technology has come a long way in the last few years, bringing it from headache-inducing (at best) to visually spectacular. A good IMAX 3D movie, in my opinion, “pops” off the screen without constantly needing to throw things in your face. It should feel immersive, not gimmicky.
This is an area where Kong: Skull Island truly shines. It never overdoes it or feels cheesy with its effects. Don’t get me wrong…it still takes advantage of the 3D presentation in some very cool ways. But none of them will make you groan.
So, what in the blue hell is Kong: Skull Island about?
The film opens in 1944, during World War II, on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. An American fighter pilot and a Japanese fighter pilot have both crashed within a few hundred yards of each other. A fairly comical struggle to kill each other ensues. Just when it looks like the two soldiers are about to kill each other, a bigger threat, Kong, emerges for the first time.
Admittedly, the opening seemed a bit odd and even forced. But it makes more sense as the movie progresses, and, looking back, it actually sets the table rather nicely.
This is where we get the opening credits, which are full of cool little MONARCH easter eggs. They do a great job of showing how technology (and war) evolved between 1944 and 1973. That’s where we pick up.
Bill Randa (John Goodman) and young geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are in Washington D.C. Representing MONARCH, the secret government kaiju-tracking agency, they plead their case for funding an expedition to the newly discovered (via satellite imaging) Skull Island. You don’t want the Russians getting to whatever resources the island holds first, do you?! (Editor’s note: Someone needs to make a “Red Son” version of Kong where he becomes a Soviet superweapon.)
They recruit ex-British S.A.S. Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to lead the expedition as a hunter-tracker. And they request a military escort, which lands them Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a soldier without a war, and his helicopter squadron, the Sky Devils. Rounding out the core team is Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a strong-willed anti-war photojournalist.
This is where things start to get interesting.
In the mission briefing, we learn that Skull Island is surrounded by a perpetual storm system. This is why ships, planes, and just about anyone else who approaches are never heard from again. So their first challenge is just getting to the island…by flying helicopters straight through the gnarliest, most “get-the-crap-outta-here” storm you’ve ever seen. It’s a pretty badass sequence, and the IMAX 3D format really shines here.
Speaking of badass, Samuel L. Jackson, perhaps channeling a bit of ‘Nam-era Nick Fury, remains ice-cool in the face of death.
As you can imagine, there’s a plan in place. Since radio communication is basically shot to hell on the island (because of the electromagnetic interference or something), it goes something like this: Do what you’re here to do and then meet on the North end of the island in three days.
As you can also imagine, that plan falls apart pretty much immediately.
After dropping seismic bombs to chart the terrain, which helps prove Brooks’ hollow Earth theory that got him recruited by MONARCH in the first place, they draw out Kong. He’s big. And he’s super pissed off.
From here, the movie very quickly shifts from an expedition to a fight for survival. Soldiers and scientists are killed. Groups are separated. And Samuel L. Jackson, after confirming what we already suspected about Bill Randa and the true purpose of the mission, begins a cold-blooded quest for revenge.
Lots of “humans are the REAL monsters” going on throughout, as you can imagine. We’ll let that be, though.
In their quest to reunite, the separated groups have some intense run-ins with the creatures of Skull Island… It ain’t just Kong stomping around. After a particularly cool sequence in a bamboo patch, it becomes very clear that they are in way over their heads.
Eventually, Conrad and Weaver’s group stumbles upon the Island’s native tribe. It’s here that they’re introduced to Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), the American fighter pilot from the film’s opening sequence. He has been stranded on Skull Island for the last 28 years. And he’s all sorts of weird.
He reveals that Kong is king on the island…and he isn’t the one they should be worried about. You can pretty much imagine what happens from here.
Overall, Kong: Skull Island is a fun, visually spectacular, action-packed adventure movie. It’s also a fairly brutal war movie with a decent (albeit played out) message. It’s silly at times and never takes itself too seriously, which is a good thing. But you care about characters when you’re supposed to. Even Kong, who we know is a sympathetic character, is given a backstory that makes characters in the movie want to root for him.
One of the things I really liked about the movie is the way they handled Kong’s size. If he’s going to fight Godzilla eventually (and boy, is he), he can’t be a 20-ft tall gorilla. He isn’t. Kong stands at about 100 feet, which is impressive for Skull Island. But as Marlow reveals via an interesting bit of dialogue, Kong is still growing (!).
This means by the time he squares off with Godzilla, which on the timeline would be almost 40 years since the events of Kong: Skull Island, I’m sure he would be a full-grown adult… Probably twice his current size. Still smaller than the 350-ft Godzilla. But that’s a good thing. He should be a bit smaller than the king of the monsters.
Speaking of the king of the monsters, there’s plenty in this movie to set up that confrontation. Definitely stick around for the solid post-credit scene, which does a great job of teasing what’s to come in the shared “MonsterVerse.”
Don’t go to Kong: Skull Island expecting it to make you question deep philosophical questions. Go expecting a solid action movie full of monster mayhem, a decent and well-paced story, and some of the best John C. Reilly moments on film to date.
All in all, Kong: Skull Island does its job well: I’m very excited about what’s to come.