With the exception of the original King Kong vs Godzilla (and Toho’s later King Kong Escapes), we have gotten (for the most part) the same King Kong movie since the original was released in 1933 – the most recent coming from Peter Jackson in 2005.
The most refreshing thing about Kong Skull Island is that it doesn’t feel like a movie we’ve seen with King Kong before (least of all, one we’ve seen remade two times – with plot points revisited in weak sequels).
Yes, it has some the familiar Kong tropes; Kong isn’t an evil monster, it cares for people (especially the lady/Brie Larson), there is a (possible/implied) love connection between a man and a woman on the trip, Skull Island is stuff of whispered myth, the island has a native population that worships Kong as a God. But that’s where they end. No grabbing a screaming lady, no t-boning a monster’s jaw, no climbing a building – the fact that this took place almost entirely on the titular island and stays there makes this one work so well.
The performances were solid all around, especially from Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and John Goodman. It was also nice to see Samuel L Jackson not just play Samuel L Jackson as well – he had a character, and he acted a bit – it was good to see.
I really only have 3 semi-minor complaints with this film. The first is that the marketing team added a shot in the trailer that would have been better left as a surprise in the movie; its a GREAT scene, and it would have played better if I didn’t know it was coming. The second, there was a sequence where Hiddleston just expertly uses a samurai sword with no explanation – would have just loved a line or something to explain why he was so proficient with it, cause nothing before it to make us think ‘I bet this guy will be great with that sword’.
The third issue is less minor though. There’s a post credits scene to set up Godzilla:King of Monsters (cause this film is in the same universe and we’ll get a Godzilla vs Kong film later) that gets spoiled in the credits themselves. Now I know Legendary needs to include it the credits since they’ll be using Toho’s characters – but still, that should come AFTER the scene! It literally plays right before the scene! My wife was like “oh hey, it said ‘that monster’…wait, they weren’t in this…well, I guess I know whats in the post credits”. Like I said, I know they had to, it was just really poor placement.
Aside from those issues, I really liked this movie. The cast and acting was solid, the pace was quick (but not too fast), the balance of humor and serious was handled very well (which I was worried about after the second trailer), and then there’s the main highlight of the movie – the action. The action scenes are very well done, Kong combating the other monsters being the best part. Don’t get me wrong, Kong vs the helicopters (and the chaos with the army people not knowing what to do) was great, and any skirmish the army peeps had with Kong or other monsters was really solid – but when it was giant gorilla vs giant beast, that’s when it all fell in place – it’s debatably why we’re there in the first place, and gives us a great preview of things to come when we get to Godzilla vs Kong. After that film though, I do hope we get another solo Kong outing at some point.
So if you’ve got some free time while it’s still available in theaters, check it out there; this is film made for the big screen (what with the size of Kong and whatnot). If not though, when it’s released or on netflix you should watch it with a bag of popcorn: you’ll be in for a very fun time.