MOVIE REVIEW: Kong: Skull Island (PG-13)

Kong: Skull Island (PG-13)  

Apocalypse Now with great music and giant monsters – what’s not to love!

Along with Godzilla, Kong is the other monster that first fueled my interest in movies as a child. And if my film history memory serves, outside of the original “The Lost World” and its animated dinosaurs from the 20’s, King Kong is the first giant monster to really be given a personality on film. Actually, calling him a monster is a bit harsh – he reigned on his island, was worshipped by the locals, until a bunch of guys showed up, captured him, put him on display in New York, and he eventually fell off the Empire State Building. Oh, and a girl was involved, as well.

Kong: Skull Island is, thankfully, not a rehash of that story (which was retold in 1976 and 2005). It’s not really a remake, prequel or sequel. Set towards the end of the Vietnam war, when our government was deciding it was time to cut our losses in that region and leave, Skull Island sets up an interesting scenario. Monarch lobbyist Bill Randa (John Goodman) convinces some to the powers that be to fund an expedition to a remote Pacific island in search of … something. Of course, Randa has an idea of what’s coming, as we’ve met the mysterious Monarch organization in 2014’s Godzilla.

Joining the expedition are Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), the tracker; Weaver (Brie Larson), the anti-war photographer/documentarian; dozens of support personnel; and Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), the military guy who’s still ticked that the US didn’t see the job in Vietnam through to the end. Arriving in military assault helicopters and dropping bomb for geological mapping, the expedition almost immediately runs afoul of the giant ape (who is much bigger than depicted in previous films). The opening confrontation is exciting, jarring, devastating and decimating for the expedition members, and sets the tone for the wall-to-wall action to come.

To talk much more about Kong: Skull Island would give away too much of the fun (yes, fun!) of this no-holds-barred, almost old-fashion adventure film, filled with oversize and dangerous creatures, a lot of humor (John C. Reilly as a downed WWII pilot steals every scene he’s in), great classic rock music, Kong’s transition from enemy to ally, that 70’s vibe, and gorgeous scenery. Suffice it to say, if you’re looking for an exciting tropical adventure with Kong fighting giant weird reptilian creatures, you literally cannot do better than Kong: Skull Island.

Oh, yes – DO stick around for the scene at the end of the credits. Not only does it promise to expand on this new Cinematic Monsterverse started with Godzilla 2014, it hints at additional monster casting that caused my inner child to squeal with delight.

Because Kong: Skull Island is EXACTLY the kind of movie I love seeing in the theater, I am going to give it a high rating, 4.5 out of 5 lightsabers. Giant monster movies may not be your thing, but they are certainly one of mine. BTW, I did not see it in 3-D…

NOTES FOR PARENTS: Kong: Skull Island is rated PG-13 for intense fights between Kong, the expedition members and a variety of oversized creatures that inhabit the island. People are killed and helicopters destroyed by Kong when he attempts to stop the bombing of the island. Expedition members are killed and eaten by some of the island’s creatures. There is some profanity, including one F-bomb and an unfinished “mother-F.” There is an especially intense scene as members of the expedition are hunted by the main reptilian monsters. A man is carried off and torn asunder in silhouette by bird-like creatures.  The film is more appropriate for a teen audience and older.

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Bio: Stephen Orr wrote his first movie review in 1977 for Star Wars, published in his high school newspaper. A life-long fan of cinema, his interest in movies led to serving as the Navy’s very first official movie reviewer on the weekly video magazine “Navy/Marine Corps News”. A military retiree (since 2002) now working in IT maintenance and management for a school system in Virginia, he continues to write and post reviews of popular films on Facebook for his family and friends, and other online venues. 

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