I don’t know when Hollywood decided to start releasing summer movies all year long, but I’m not complaining.
“Kong: Skull Island” is your classic big, bombastic, explosive, popcorn, thrill-ride summer movie. So what if it’s only March.
John Goodman stars as Bill Randa, head of the mysterious organization named Monarch. Randa believes in monsters and has been chasing them all his life. Think Fox Mulder — but with connections and resources.
The year is 1973 and the war in Vietnam is coming to a close. When satellites capture an image of an heretofore unknown island in the Pacific, Randa wants to lead an expedition there.
Using his government contacts, he manages to secure a military escort led by Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Packard’s team of soldiers and Randa’s team of scientists are joined by James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), an expert hunter/tracker, and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson).
A ship takes them as far as it can, then everyone boards helicopters for the journey’s final leg. They don’t get far before a giant ape begins swatting them out of the sky.
The teams become separated but all agree that they need to head for the rendezvous point where new choppers are scheduled to meet them in three days. Conrad and Weaver’s group wind up encountering Chicago native Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a pilot who crashed on the island during World War II.
Packard wants to kill Kong to avenge the deaths of his fellow soldiers. But Marlow argues that would not be a good idea — for Kong is the only one who can keep everyone safe from the island’s true monsters.
“Kong: Skull Island” will never earn the label of “classic” given to the ape’s 1933 original film, and it’s not as polished, pretentious or long as Peter Jackson’s 2005 version. It’s just a fun romp filled with stock characters, outrageous monsters, big explosions and impressive special effects.
The creature designs are imaginative — from giant spiders and crocodile-like monsters to a muskox with bizarre horns and finally, the great ape himself. Traditionally, King Kong is known for climbing the Empire State Building. This Kong is actually the size of the Empire State Building. But of course, in addition to his massive roar he has a massive heart.
The cast play their roles acceptably but the standout is Reilly. He’s half-mad, of course, having survived for so long in such a hellish place, but he’s also the voice of reason — if anyone will listen.
And if you’re wondering how the filmmakers hope to turn what seems to be a one-off story into a franchise, stick around for the post-credits scene.