“Kong: Skull Island” brings the summer experience to March

Everything is becoming a cinematic universe. We’ve accepted that by now, I think. It’s just a matter of how it’s all crafted. On Friday, step two in what will be the return of a giant monster universe hits in Kong: Skull Island. Intended to be a prequel to Godzilla, setting up a fight down the line, this film seeks to also be something different from what we normally get from Kong. It’s all about him and his island, as opposed to his interactions with our world. This small change makes for a very different flick. The social ambitions are smaller, but the spectacle at hand can now be even larger. This is a blockbuster through and through folks.

The movie is set in the past (it needs to set up movies set in the present, after all), during the Vietnam era, to be precise. When shady company Monarch, led by Bill Randa (John Goodman), is finally given approval to chart an uncharted island, it sets into motion events that will bring about the reveal of Kong. First though, Randa needs a tracker in James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a photographer in Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and a military escort, led by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Then, they set out for Skull Island, where they’re greeted rudely by Kong. He’s the least of their worries though, as far more dangerous creatures roam the island, held at bay by Kong himself. It’s an action adventure through and through, knowing what the appeal of this concept is. Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs a script from the quartet of Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatins, and Dan Gilroy. The cast includes Corey Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Thomas Mann, Jason Mitchell, Terry Notary, John Ortiz, John C. Reilly, and Shea Whigham. Larry Fong handles the cinematography, while the score is from Henry Jackman. It’s not necessarily high art, but it does have a real action movie charm to it.

This is a fun flick. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t skimp on the spectacle. The main annoyance here is how useless the humans are, but that kind of comes with the territory. It’s just a shame to see talent actors given little to do. John C. Reilly escapes that fate, but only just barely. Kong and the creatures are the stars here, which the filmmakers never forget about. Kong’s screen time is on the smaller side, but he makes an impact whenever he’s there. I’m not sure how he’ll fit in with Godzilla going forward, but there’s some tie in attempts made. I’ll leave those for you to see for yourself.

Here is how I would rank some of the King Kong movies we’ve gotten so far:

1. King Kong (1933)
2. King Kong (2005)
3. Kong: Skull Island
4. King Kong (1976)
5. King Kong vs Godzilla
6. Son of Kong

On Friday, audiences can get a taste of the summer here in what’s not really even the spring yet when Kong: Skull Island opens up. This isn’t revelatory like Logan or anything like that, but in terms of large scale mainstream entertainment, it’s very solid stuff. If you like King Kong movies, this is a bit of a different one for you to scope out. It’s not as self serious as the last Godzilla film (which I happened to love), but it does have a similar confidence level to it. When the monsters eventually clash in a future movie, I know I’ll be ready for it. In the meantime, this is a real good time at the multiplex…

Be sure to check out Kong: Skull Island, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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