Legendary Pictures' 2014 Godzilla film brought the giant lizard out of movie obscurity as the aptly named king of monsters hadn't been in a film for over a decade. Along with Legendary's Pacific Rim it brought back giant monsters in the mainstream subconsciousness. Rumors had speculated about a Legendary backed 'Kaiju-verse' all the way back to 2014, and those rumors were circulating online when Legendary purchased the rights to various other Toho kaiju including Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. Then, Legendary announced the revival of an American beloved icon, the giant ape and original crown of monsters, King Kong. That film was Kong: Skull Island, and it opened the flood gates for the kaijuverse.
Set in 1973 in a post-Vietnam environment, Kong: Skull Island has a political back-drop that is quite relateable in this chaotic world we live in now. We follow a nearly bankrupt MONARCH, a government agency that was first encountered in Legendary's 2014 Godzilla film. Bill Randa (played by John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (played by Corey Hawkins) in a last ditch attempt to save Monarch join a surveying operation, that well turns into an adventure through Skull Island, the domain of it's monarch, King Kong who protects the people and animals from ancient bipedal lizards known as Skull Crawlers.
The film offers little in plot or story, the characters are given quick characterizations, and some in fact have mini-story arcs. Nothing too engaging, but this is a giant monter movie, not a human piece. Although, there are great themes in this film. We have nature vs. man, centering around Kong vs. the military who want to kill him. Mostly because Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson) sees Kong as an enemy, and in Packard we see another theme, that a soldier never truly returns from war. Packard's dilenma of running from Vietnam and wishes to find one last hurrah on this surveying mission that takes the lives of many in his service. It creates a perfect storm and Packard is the perfect antagonist of the film, and serves a foil for a few other characters.
What the film does best is it's visuals and it's action. The uniqueness of the creatures of the island, be it Kong himself or the various forms of Skull Crawlers, the native and docile Sker buffalo, and other terrible beasts such as Mother Longlegs and the viscous packs of Leafwings that prowl the skies and treetops. Skull Island was shot in Hawai, and has breathtaking visuals and landscapes. It hasa very Jurassic Park vibe. The fight scenes are more akin to the original King Kong, but the dangers of the island are more like those encountered in Peter Jackson's King Kong.
In the end of the day, Kong is an action movie for fans of giant monsters. It has a human element, as all these movies do. But, it succeeds with this human moment a bit better than Gareth Edward's Godzilla, but not as much as Pacific Rim, both Legendary Pictures films. Let's hope if the 'Kaijuverse' succeeds that they will continue to perfect this balance in the future. I feel that Kong, Skull Island is a strong film for action fans, and as something to watch for fun. It isn't an art piece, and it isn't state of the art or breaking any mold. However, I don't think it has to. In the end movies are just as much entertainment as they are art and Kong: Skull Island is the latter, a great fun time basking in the glory of Kong. Long Live the King of Skull Island, Kong.
PS. If you go see the film, you have to stay for the after credit scene.
A.L. Hornbeck, historian, author, metalhead, and all around geek.