Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island ★★★★

Admittedly, I was a little hesitant about seeing this due to the fact that this was meant to be part of Legendary Pictures' new cinematic universe known as the "Monsterverse" (I always thought that the "Monarch Cinematic Universe" was a better name) and their first entry in this universe, 2014's Godzilla, was not exactly a favorite of mine at all. In my opinion, it had more screen time with the human characters than it did with the monsters we wanted to see, the monsters being Godzilla and the MUTOs. There was not a proper ratio with Godzilla when it came to that. Plus, it was joyless and drab as hell. However, upon seeing who they had in the cast, who they had directing it and the approach that they were going with when it came to this new version of King Kong, I got a little excited. Okay, not a little. Very excited.

Before I begin my review, recently (at the time of this review), the movie blew up social media and made headlines once again, this time when the film's director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, took umbrage with CinemaSins' latest video that counted the sins (or flaws and other things if you will) of the film. I'm inclined to side with Vogt-Roberts. I stopped watching CinemaSins in 2016 and switched to the more enjoyable CinemaWins since they can find the fun in a movie, whereas of late, CinemaSins has not. And don't say it's satire. I know satire when I see it and the recent slate of CinemaSins videos are NOT satire. Anyway, enough about that. Let's talk about the 2nd movie in Legendary's Monsterverse that's more fun than its first.

Set in 1973, the year that the Vietnam War ended, Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are a pair of scientists from the Monarch organization who have discovered an unexplored, uncharted and concealed land in the South Pacific called Skull Island and they succeed in getting the financing they need for an expedition from cynic Senator Willis (Richard Jenkins). To begin the expedition, they hire tough and intrepid tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), former captain of the SAS, to guide the expedition, a band of Army soldiers under the command of Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) for escort and protection and headstrong photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to provide photographic proof for Monarch, not the public. After boarding a boat, they head for helicopters to cross a treacherous storm. Once they arrived on the lush and untouched Skull Island, the military start dropping bombs on the land to map the seismology of the island but that soon becomes a big mistake as they catch the attention of the 950-foot behemoth that's considered king of the island, Kong! A gigantic primate of remarkable size and strength, Kong begins to pummel the choppers and some of the soldiers inside them while Randa, Brooks, Conrad, Weaver, Packard and a handful of others survive the devastation. As they explore the island, Conrad & Weaver meet Marlow (John C. Reilly), a World War II fighter pilot who's been stuck on Skull Island for years and he soon becomes someone who may be of great help to those who are trying to get off the island. Meanwhile, Packard looks to seek vengeance against Kong after it killed Packard's men and he soon grows increasingly unhinged on his quest for revenge but Conrad, Weaver, Marlow and a few others might just survive this expedition as they learn one absolute: Kong is King!

I always thought how they were going to top all the other interpretations of King Kong that have made their way to the big and small screens. There's the iconic 1933 version that we all know and love, the version from 1976 that some love and others don't, the animated direct-to-video musical version from 1998 that many agree is the biggest insult to Kong since King Kong Lives and the Peter Jackson version from 2005 that some consider to be on par with the version from '33. They definitely have upped the ante with this version of Kong. He's bigger than the others (standing at a extremely large 950 feet) and definitely more savage than the others. Seriously, this Kong is vicious and when he pummels other monsters and humans left and right, it's surprisingly shocking, especially since the movie is rated PG-13 and they really push the rating to its limits. It's amazing that they got away with the level of brutality that it showed, it was like watching a movie from 1985 (the year the rating was implemented). As for the human element of the film, Hiddleston was quite heroic, Larson was so awesome, Jackson was crazy and Reilly was entertaining. And this version of Kong may just be the best one yet, thanks in large part to Terry Notary's performance capture work on the film. It's the finest performance capture since Andy Serkis' 2005 portrayal of Kong.

Kong: Skull Island is a film that knows exactly what it is: a fun, exciting, thrilling creature feature that pulls no punches. The kind of movie that Spielberg would produce or direct way back when, a big high adventure, the kind of movie that is needed these days. Fingers crossed that 2018's Godzilla: King of the Monsters and 2019's Godzilla Vs. Kong will be as fun as this because if they're anything like 2014's Godzilla and less like this movie, I'm going to go ape!

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