I thought you were crazy.
I wish I was.
I went into Kong: Skull Island actually pretty hopeful. I absolutely adored the Godzilla remake from a few years back, the one that ties into this one, not the Shin Godzilla one. And the first trailer for this one, much like the first trailer for Godzilla, really knocked me back a step. And I ended up absolutely loving this movie too. I like the setting of the film, just after the Vietnam Conflict, and the way Vogt-Roberts captures the seventies look both in the film and in a meta way in terms of making the movie look like a movie made in the seventies. There’s real visual flair on display here and the environments really pop and the special effects are absolutely seamless. You genuinely forget, after a while, that none of these creatures are actually real; the way they move and interact with the environment not only seems natural and seamless, but also gives the creatures a lot of personality, which is of primary importance. The cast is not necessarily served well by the script, which paints everyone in broad strokes, but this film effectively functions as a triple-A B-movie and the cast here, as in a lot of those old B-movies, serves to fit everyone into a type quickly and also give you a certain amount of pleasure, just because you like all these actors. Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson . . . these are stalwarts. It’s nice to see both Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell from Straight Outta Compton pop up in substantial roles and even more fun to see improv comedy phenom Eugene Cordero all buffed up as a tough as nails soldier. Then there’s Thomas Mann, who you hopefully remember from Me & Earl & the Dying Girl as another of the soldiers. None of these roles are calling for particularly great acting, but they all do great and even elevate the material to find small bits of business and delivery to make them feel more human than the script might allow on its own. A word for Toby Kebbell who is pretty awful with his corn pone accent and his cheesy grin. Luckily the movie figures this out rather quickly and decides his character is best served by sitting under a tree for the bulk of the running time. Best of all is John C. Reilly; his character isn’t the broad cartoon some of the trailers painted him as – yes, he gets some funny bits, but the emotional heart of the film is strangely centered on his character and the movie gets some surprisingly tear-jerking moments out of his character. But the film is, first and foremost, a full-on creature feature and it’s a world of fun. The world-building is great and this film features some great jaw-drop moments in just the way the Godzilla movie did. I won’t spoil a lot of them, but the first encounter between Kong and the helicopters is a brilliant piece of action filmmaking and a sequence later in which our characters traverse a monster graveyard that’s cloaked in heavy fog is atmospheric, suspenseful and genuinely scary. And the final fight leaves nothing to be desired. This is really modern blockbuster filmmaking with more than a few lessons taken from genre pictures of the past; I said it before and I’ll say it again: this is a b-movie creature feature with a triple-a budget and it’s an absolute blast. If you’d told me a couple of years ago that I’d be seriously jonesing for a King Kong vs. Godzilla movie, I’d have laughed in your face. Who’s laughing now? Well, still me, out of pure joy at this masterpiece of entertainment and fun. 4 stars.
tl;dr – b-movie creature feature meets triple-a budget and the result is a bang-up action adventure with breathtaking special effects, a great cast and an explosion of pure fun and mayhem. 4 stars.