Main cast: Tom Hiddleston (James Conrad), Samuel L Jackson (Lt Col Preston Packard), John Goodman (William Randa), Brie Larson (Mason Weaver), Jing Tian (San Lin), Toby Kebbell (Jack Chapman), John Ortiz (Victor Nieves), Corey Hawkins (Houston Brooks), Jason Mitchell (Glenn Mills), Shea Whigham (Earl Cole), Thomas Mann (Reg Slivko), Eugene Cordero (Reles), and John C Reilly (Lt Hank Marlow)
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Interesting that Kong: Skull Island came from the same people that made the last Godzilla reboot, because this is everything that other movie should have been. Kaiju monster deathmatch, baby!
Having said that, don’t be like that couple seated next to me in the cinema – they brought in a kid who must be about four or five, and the kid burst in tears about twenty minutes into the film. While this one doesn’t have graphic gore, it is violent and can be terrifying for some young kids, as there is no masking the fact that the people in this movie get eaten and violently killed in various ways. One guy clearly is killed by a giant spider-like creature’s spike-like appendage being shoved completely down his throat, just to give you an example. So only let your kids watch if you know they are the sort who take delight in such violent scenes, okay?
Anyway, this movie is set in 1973. William Randa, the boss of a secret government agency called Monarch, manages to convince a senator to let him and his crew embark on a trip to a place not mentioned on conventional maps: Skull Island. Ronda and his assistants Houston and San Lin, hire James Conrad, a British ex-Special Service agent turned drifter and mercenary, to help them track… uh, things on that place. They are very hush-hush about what they are looking for, you see. They also manage to have Lt Col Preston Packard and his Sky Devils helicopter squadron postpone their trip home once they are recalled from the Vietnam War to make a quick detour and escort them there. Also joining them is anti-war photographer Mason Weaver, who believes that whatever they will find in Skull Island will make a great story.
Monarch has a plan to start throwing bombs on Skull Island. They tell the others that this is a test to determine the soundness of the ground or something, when in truth Randa wants to lure the gargantuan gorilla Kong out. Well, Kong shows up alright, and pulverizes the helicopters straight into the ground. The survivors are split into two groups. One group, led by James Conrad, eventually meets Hank Marlow, a World War 2 pilot who has been stranded here since the last two decades and found safe harbor among the native folks living on Skull Island. He tells them that Kong is worshipped as a deity by these folks, because he and his kind actually act as guardians of the island, keeping at bay monstrous threats such as a reptilian type of monsters called Skullcrawlers by Hank. Kong is the last of his kind, as the Skullcrawlers turned the rest of his family into lizard chow. Therefore, killing Kong is bad for the island, as it would mean that everything here would be overrun by the Skullcrawlers. Meanwhile, Packard just wants to kill Kong, both as vengeance for his men and also as a means to vent out his fury at being pulled out of the Vietnam War (let’s just say that this guy has issues). Eventually there will be a clash between Team Kong and Team Dead Kong, even as Kong takes on the Skullcrawlers.
The human characters in this movie are pretty much just there, although Tom Hiddleston does a credible impression of Michael Fassbender’s 54-year old uncle. Taylor Swift’s ex-it boy basically just has to glower and look action hero-y while Brie Larson generally takes photos and looks nice in a sleeveless tank top. Oh, and she also gets to shoot a fuse gun. There are too many characters here. I know, we need that Chinese girl to make China love this movie, but Jing Tian is basically scenery here and she has only a handful of throwaway lines for someone whose name is in the main credit. The Sky Devils soldiers are all forgettable aside from Packard (because he’s the antagonist human character) and Slivko (the newbie). Everyone else exists to be stereotypes, and those who claim to have someone to go home to predictably dies. John C Reilly’s character is most memorable one here, and I think this movie would have been much better if the cast had been smaller: just him, James, Packard, and the token chick Mason along with just one or two of the current Sky Devils roster, because perhaps then there would be more opportunities to flesh out these characters more.
This movie also has some pretty bad science and explosion physics, but then again, the entire movie is bad science. Skull Island does not have the ecosystem to support the appetite of a creature as big as Kong, for example, so this is one movie that requires people to just play along in order to have fun. And oh, it can be so much fun! Kong is beautifully rendered, and he looks adorable even when he’s being all bad-tempered and grumpy. Given the amount of physical abuse he takes in this movie, I really don’t blame him for his bad mood. Plus, he’s the last of his kind, so that’s sad. Maybe we should give him a girlfriend gorilla in the next movie, if there is ever going to be one.
The best thing about this movie is the fun kaiju battle moments. Kong taking on the big daddy of the Skullcrawlers is pretty awesome, and the movie wisely shows the fight in full daylight, rather than in the dark and only very late in the movie like what happened in Godzilla, so this one is fun all around. Kong even delivers an uppercut at his opponent, how adorable.
The hottest thing about Kong: Skull Island is the gorilla. It’s a bit of a shame that the rest of it is quite lukewarm in comparison.