Review: Kong: Skull Island
When I was 10 years old, my family visited Universal Studios in Orlando, FL. I vividly remember the too long lines and too short rides, but no experience stands out more for me than waiting in line for the now defunct Kongfrontation. Ominous warning played in a loop and the legend of King Kong grew in my pre-pubescent mind until it reached a fever pitch. I was terrified. So large, so angry, so unpredictable. Kong is a nightmare for someone with a tenuous grip on reality in the first place. As a fantasy, Kong is so much fun. Larger than mountains and stronger than machines, he is seemingly invincible in his natural environment. All of these elements combine to make Kong: Skull Island undeniably fun.
This Kong-tale is set in the waning days of the Vietnam War. The politics of the day shape all of the events--from the government funding William "Bill" Randa (played by John Goodman) is able to secure to search a mysterious island to the bloodthirst of Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson). These characters all end up on this island to study one of the few remaining unknown places on Earth and end up confronted by ancient creatures that have evolved into literal monsters.
The arc of the film unfolds in a "get there" and "get back" fashion, with a lot of "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" mixed in. Most are accepting of Kong's benevolent rule of the island, but when disagreement about that fact ensues, our characters must act fast to make it out alive.
Surprisingly, there is a lot to recommend here. For starters, the film packs real star power. Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John C. Reilly. They really have assembled a top-notch cast that adds to the event feel of the movie. From Frame 1, there is a certain Transformers vibe, but in a way that is much more self-aware and not nearly as grating. This is a big budget project that knows what it is and stays in its lane. The movie takes aim at the idea of attacking that which you don't understand and does so with enough humor and lack of sanctimony that it does not come across as judgmental or preachy in the least.
There are moments, however, where the cartoonish proportions of the whole thing get a little out of hand. Some of the intentionally over-the-top action sequences feel out of place because of how few and far between they are. This isn't John Wick, but every now and then they send Tom Hiddleston barreling through danger with a gas mask and a sword and it feels a little off. Overall, however, this is just a good time. It doesn't take itself too seriously and you won't either--and that is a good thing.
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