Action Adventure

'Kong: Skull Island' Film Review: King Kong remake delivers shock, awe and plenty of monster mayhem

March 10, 2017Ben MK

In the never-ending battle for supremacy between man and beast, it's all but a foregone conclusion that the winner would be the 158-ton gorilla in the room. Still, that hasn't stopped Hollywood from repeatedly revisiting and reimagining the tale of King Kong, this time with The Kings of Summer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts framing the epic conflict against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.

Set in 1973, Kong: Skull Island marks the eighth time the legendary ape has roared his way onto the big screen, the first being 1933's King Kong and the most recent being Peter Jackson's 2005 remake. Alas, a lot has changed in the last twelve years, though. And with moviegoers having grown weary of retreads, Skull Island takes things in a different direction, painting Kong as more of a savior than a tragic character, and setting his story entirely on the titular island, which happens to not only be home to him, but also to a menagerie of other mammoth monsters.

Of course, it's no secret that both Skull Island and Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla reboot are part of the same shared "Monsterverse," a cinematic universe which will also include the upcoming Godzilla: King of Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong. As such, there's also a bit of studio synergy at work here, with the human presence on the island being orchestrated by John Goodman's character, Bill Randa, an official with the fictitious Monarch organization — the very same government coalition responsible for unleashing the MUTOs on the world in Godzilla.

That said, this movie feels like more than just a stepping stone on the way to Godzilla vs. Kong, for the result sizzles with the sort of primal ferocity that the clash between the giant ape and a T-Rex in the Peter Jackson version only teased. Here, not only must our human protagonists survive their run-ins with the mighty primate, but they must also contend with vicious reptiles dubbed "Skullcrawlers," winged dinosaurs and giant arachnids. Suffice to say, the only thing missing is that iconic sequence in which Kong scales the Empire State Building, fair maiden in hand.

The downside, however, is the script by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connelly, which finds an expedition team led by former SAS Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) getting in way over their heads, when he, anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a slew of potential human casualties (including Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Shea Whigham, Corey Hawkins and Jing Tian) are caught in the middle of a showdown between the island's supersized inhabitants. Needless to say, the bare bones plot is the weakest aspect of the movie.

Otherwise, the makers of Kong: Skull Island have learned well from Godzilla 2014's missteps and taken the fan feedback to heart, especially when it comes to giving their star attraction plenty of screen time. From Kong's grand entrance, a thrilling sequence in which the big ape makes short work of a squadron of military helicopters invading his territory, to the final monster-on-monster battle, moviegoers won't be left wanting by the impact of Kong's presence in the film, proving that — at least when it comes to giant creature features — bigger is always better.

Kong: Skull Island releases March 10th, 2017 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 0 Min.

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