From Pacific Rim to the latest Hollywood take on Godzilla, monster movies are having a sweet renaissance. Kong is still king thanks to Kong: Skull Island, a thrilling blend of ’70s-era war movie and current-gen CGI. Skull Island masterfully blends rampaging monster mayhem, visual artfulness and some whiz-bang FX into what may be the king of the already overpopulated mountain of 2017 movies. It will be a shame if the exhilarating creature feature is not one of the year’s biggest hits, as the inventive pop movie-making of Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) and crew will be hard to top.
The smart script, written by Oscar nominee Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Max Borenstein (2014’s Godzilla) and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World), sends several scientists, including John Goodman and Straight Outta Compton’s Corey Hawkins, along with a helicopter squadron led by Samuel L. Jackson’s Col. Packard to an uncharted island ruled by everybody’s favorite giant ape. Kong is not very welcoming to these bomb-dropping invaders, but it is another, meaner species of giant monsters from which everyone should run.
Everything attempted in Kong succeeds. Vogt-Roberts ambitiously shoots for iconic, epic imagery and pulls off a task of massive hubris. The sequence where Tom Hiddleston’s former SAS officer slices and dices flying monsters amidst a cloud of toxic green gas inspires awe, and it is merely the most memorable of a multitude of imaginative shots in a genre not necessarily known for trying so hard. He also nails the first-person viewpoint popularized in video games better than anyone besides Ilya Naishuller, the guy who made Hardcore Henry.
The sharp script provides an abundance of character with which the above-average cast can work its magic. Hiddleston makes a strong case for more matinee-idol roles, and Oscar winner Brie Larson is particularly winsome as a war photog who could have easily become the unrewarding damsel in distress. Naturally, John C. Reilly steals the show as a World War II pilot stranded on the island for 30 years.
Kong: Skull Island has so much going for it. It’s like Platoon meets Jurassic Park, two films I never thought I would see mashed up well. You should see it, too, on the biggest screen you can find; Kong is the biggest and baddest, after all. And don’t leave before the credits are over!
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