Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island ★★★★

Admittedly when I noticed that reviews for Kong: Skull Island were coming out with glowing praise it did raise my eyebrows. This could have easily be an easy cash-in for good money but it's rather delightful that it is is anything but that. It's an exhilarating adventure that really justifies its blockbuster status with a movie that looks pretty spectacular and never really gets old at any point. Some flimsy character work and dialogue along the way does come with it but it's such a great flick that you can sit back and enjoy that you can at least look past that.

Skull Island felt a lot like the most recent Godzilla mixed with Jurassic World, except that it was a good version of Jurassic World and not the dull as dishwater reality. There's a real sense of scale to this that a big monster movie really needs and to be honest it is really refreshing actually seeing the big monsters fight it out properly without hiding behind the occasional glimpse. As much as I love Gareth Edwards for Monsters and Godzilla and JJ Abrams for Cloverfield there seems to be too much hinting at monsters in modern monster movies whereas Kong: Skull Island just goes all out and gives you the big guy from the get go. Saying that, big guy is an understatement - he is incredibly huge in this and the CGI to go with him never lets him down. Really good stuff.

What was actually a big surprise for me was how beautiful this movie was in places. I don't know much about director Jordan Vogt-Roberts but the cinematography he's directed here is just really rather stunning in places. There are a few moments where Kong stands out in the haze of a Pacific sunset and it just looks gobsmacking. Combined with a really strong level of CGI in the movie and some long horizon shots of Kong going up against his foes, there's so much visual identity to the movie and really gives itself plenty of strength in making sure it's memorable to look at.

If there is a weak point to Kong: Skull Island it is more in the shallowness of the characters than anything but there's still a few good people in amongst a really good cast. I still don't actually know what Tom Hiddlestone's leading man character does - he looks for people, I suppose? - but he was solid enough in being the big action man of the flick. Brie Larson is enjoyable as anti-war photographer Mason and actually puts in a good justification as to why she could be a good Lara Croft. Samuel L Jackson is as brash and direct as you'd come to expect as Lt. Packard leading his men around this island but for me it is John C. Reilly who is just the best character to come out of this movie. He injects plenty of warm humour that you embrace during the slower moments in between the huge set pieces and has a story that adds so much to a basic plot of trying to escape Skull Island. It's easily the most well-rounded character in the plot and it's a shame that some of the others feel so wooden and clumsy with their dialogue in comparison. He's definitely a bit of a scene stealer.

Even with these niggles it's all good though just because there's so much fun to the movie at its heart. The huge fights are just incredible to watch and discovering Skull Island with the cast of characters always leads to something else unexpected that keeps the action fresh and interesting. There's a brilliant soundtrack with some 60's and 70's classics to enjoy in amongst the Vietnam War setting of the plot that just adds even more to the overall feel of the movie and the style that Vogt-Roberts was going for with much success.

I'm surprised how good this was, in all honesty. It takes everything that worked with the Godzilla movie and builds upon it to make a really great, big blockbuster smash that definitely justifies itself in the lore of King Kong. Legendary are only just starting up their 'Monsters' universe but if they keep up the standard of this then we're in for a treat with plenty more movies to come down the line. What a fun adventure.