Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island (2017), directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly and John Gatins, based on the characters created by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace, starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackosn, Brie Larson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly

At the end of the Vietnam war, a group of scientists accompanied by an American helicopter squadron head out to an island in the Pacific, previously unknown to the world. This new island was discovered after an array of new satellites was launched and the justification for this journey is, that if not Americans, it will be the Soviets. The island in question is, of course, the Skull Island. And what they find there is Kong. Among other things.

Randa (Goodman) is a scientist with a reputation. Throughout his career, he's been looking for things that don't fit in the understanding of normal people and because of that, he's branded as tinfoil nut. But as Vietnam is ending and satellites provide new information on Earth, he manages to talk himself to an expedition in grounds of if not us, then it is them. Packard (Jackson) is a helicopter squadron leader, who isn't too happy of the retreat of the USA. When the call comes to accompany the scientific team, he's only too happy to do so, as it beats going home. Conrad (Hiddleston) is a former Britsih special ops guy, who is hired to lead a landing party and finally, there is Weaver (Larson), a photojournalist,. who is only too happy to tag along with the mission in the hopes of a scoop.

Unlike Peter Jackson's overly long take on the classic birth tale of King Kong, Vogt-Roberts doesn't dally too long with the reveal of his version of the magnificent ape. In fact, we get to see a glimpse of him during a couple of first minutes of the movies, when two Second World War pilots, Japanese and an American, crashland to the island and stop trying to kill each other when a huge, furry beast makes itself known. And after the 1970's party gets to the island, it doesn't long before we see Kong in action, swatting out helicopters like they were flies.

I liked Kong more than I expected to like it. While it is a relatively conventional monster movie and in that it doesn't really bring anything new to the genre itself, it did manage to win me over with a solid cast and beautiful visuals. Kong himself is a very nicely done creature, brimming with personality the same way Jackson managed to make his giant ape feel sympathetic and complex creature. What really is surprising is the minimal amount Kong actually spends interacting with the main cast, as while Packard is hell-bent on killing the ape, Conrad is spending most of the time trying to get out from the island. You'd even think that Weaver would have ended up being taken by Kong at some point, because of the usual trope of Kong kidnapping women, but that doesn't happen either.

Skull Island really is an apt subtitle for the movie, as the island itself really is an important aspect of the story itself. During the  118 minutes, we learn stuff about the place itself and the creatures it has. We even get to learn something of its history and the balance of terror that has existed there for ages. You could even say, that the story itself is allegorical in nature in a very blatant fashion.

While the visual effects are mostly great, the biggest disappointment of the story are the lizard monsters of the tale. The skull-headed monsters exist in underground caverns, from where they make their hunting trips, trying to kill Kong who stands in their way of what I assume is world domination. These are the things Kong fights constantly and are the genuine threat of the story. Sadly enough, the design work of these half snake lizards is just lazy and they never manage to rise to the same level with Kong itself.

All said I did like Kong: Skull Island. It is a solid action flick, that doesn't overstay its welcome. The actors are good and seem to be taking their roles seriously, despite the writing isn't always at the same level as they are. The visuals are mostly good and the actions scenes work well. As a whole, it is more enjoyable than Jackson's overly epic remake of the original King Kong, so if you're looking something to spend 2 hours on, there's worse options than Kong: Skull Island.