Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Jing Tian, Shea Whigham, Jason Mitchell, Thomas Mann, John Ortiz
Plot: A team of scientists and soldiers explore an uncharted island in the Pacific in 1973, only to encounter a vast array of dangerous gigantic creatures, including a 104-foot ape known as Kong.
Review: The recent Godzilla remake was underwhelming to say the least, and movie fans would rightfully hope that Kong: Skull Island, the next film about gigantic monsters, would be better. I'm happy to report that it certainly is.
After a brief prologue that takes place in 1944, we jump to 1973 where the Vietnam War is at an end. Scientists from Monarch, a top secret research company, gain permission from the government to explore Skull Island, an uncharted island in the Pacific. Along for the ride are a group of soldiers just leaving Vietnam, a former SAS soldier acting as tracker, and an anti-war photographer. Once there however, they run into a gigantic ape that wastes no time in attacking and destroying their helicopters, forcing the survivors to travel through rough and dangerous terrain to make it to their pick up point. Along the way, they have to try to not get killed, and they run into someone who knows about the big ape and the island.
Relatively new director Jordan Vogt-Roberts wisely keeps the pace brisk here. Peter Jackson's King Kong was the last time Kong appeared on the silver screen, and though it was a magnificent film, it was a very long experience. So thankfully, Vogt-Roberts makes it easy on the viewers by keeping things swift. After all, this is more of a sci-fi fantasy and not the love story that Jackson's film is known for.
As an adventure flick, it certainly hits all the right notes. There is rarely a dull moment in the film as Vogt-Roberts throws one threat after another at our heroes, from giant spiders to killer pterodactyls and "skullcrawlers", which you would be familiar with if you've watched the trailers. And of course, there is Kong, who begins as a threat but as we all know, is the real hero of the story. Thanks to a very game cast and spectacular visual effects from Industrial Light & Magic, the film is pretty entertaining from start to finish.
The ensemble cast is pretty impressive, though only a select few really stand out. Tom Hiddleston's Conrad, the tracker and Samuel L Jackson's Col. Packard, leader of the soldiers, get the most airtime, and both actors are good in their roles. Jackson's Packard is like Ahab in Moby Dick, trying to kill Kong whom he views as an enemy. Brie Larson, playing Weaver the photographer, gets her chance to shine too, mostly with Kong. The best role however goes to John C Reilly. He plays Marlow, a pilot who crashed on the island 28 years prior, and becomes the group's guide. Partly eccentric and partly wise, he is the unsung hero of the story, and Reilly is truly the most memorable thing about the film other than Kong.
The rest of the cast, including Jing Tian, Corey Hawkins, Shea Whigham, Toby Kebbell and Thomas Mann provide some good support but not enough time on screen unfortunately. Even the legendary John Goodman as head scientist Randa was sadly wasted when he could have really taken the role to another level if given the chance. Lastly, credit goes to Terry Notary who provides the movements for Kong; he had previously done so for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.
At the end of the day though, Kong: Skull Island, despite the great effects and outstanding cast, is essentially a B movie. The theme of man versus nature is a good idea here, but one gets the feeling that the film only scratched the surface of that idea. With a bit more time, that idea can be further explored.
But if you're looking for a thrilling adventure flick this month, you can't go wrong with Skull Island. Do wait till the credits finish rolling for one last scene. (8/10)