"Kong: Skull Island" nails what makes monster movies fun
“Kong: Skull Island” wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, while also setting a new bar for the genre in nearly every aspect of filmmaking: score, cinematography and cultivating likeable, A-list actors with genuine chemistry and charisma.
Director Jordan Vogt-Robert, relatively unknown by mainstream audiences, was tasked with managing a nearly $200 million budget, a litany of mega stars and a franchise with a longstanding history with eyes on a crossover series with the “Godzilla” series. Those factors alone make “Skull Island” a success.
Set in 1973, the movie tells a cohesive story that mixes elements of films such as “Jurassic Park,” “Apocalypse Now” and of course, films from the Kong mythology in a compelling way. While the film doesn’t exactly demand Oscar-worthy performances, and the dialogue is at times a little gawky, lead bad-ass Capt. Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), military nutjob Lt. Colonel Packard (Samuel Jackson) and strong-willed photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), along with a strong supporting cast, more than get the job done.
The plot, which consists of such monster-movie tropes as “scientific mission to a mystery island” and “split up the characters across the map,” is aided by truly breathtaking animation, camera work and bone rattling action scenes in front of gorgeous set pieces. While the beats are wholly familiar, the execution and clear love for the material is near-flawless and the pacing is such that the various “monster vs. human” scenes are all thrilling to take in.
Traditional action film roles such as the explorer, John Randa (John Goodman), and the comic relief, Hank Marlow (John C. Riley), are given some of the best lines of the movie, and bring an energy that elevates the performances of those around them. Marlow’s story is sweet, and rooting for him to make it off the island is as effortless as Kong knocking a military chopper out of the sky.
At just two hours, a rarity for a movie of its scale these days, the film is able to capture the era in which it is set, pay homage to its predecessors without feeling stale and provide some of the best visuals in cinema to date. “Kong: Skull Island” is a remarkably fun, tight and skillful popcorn flick that is impossible to take your eyes off of.
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