Kong fans rejoice. Skull Island delivers the monster beat down exactly as promised. The overall plot is fairly simplistic. That's not a deal killer here. The runtime, superb visual effects, and incredible sound editing make this theater experience a must see. You can almost feel Kong's snarling breath as he swats helicopters like flies.
The plot takes place in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War. A team from a government agency called Monarch discovers a hidden island in the South Pacific. Led by Bill Randa (John Goodman), they put together an expedition to chart the mysterious Skull Island. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) is in command. His helicopter squadron will be responsible for transportation and security. Former SAS soldier turned elite mercenary, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), is hired as an expert tracker and extra gun hand. Rounding out the crew is Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a celebrated war photographer who will document the trip. Needless to say, Skull Island offers more than a few surprises for the group.
Let's get down to the most important element. King Kong looks incredible. He is gigantic, much bigger than what we've seen in previous films. I would gauge him at least forty stories tall. He absolutely towers over his environment. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts isn't pussyfooting about with Kong's ability. His strength, speed, and agility are shown in multiple ass-kicking fighting scenes. I particularly liked Vogt-Roberts artistic approach. We've seen the one sheet with Kong silhouetted against the setting sun as the helicopters attack. This scene is stunning, really well done, worth the price of admission by itself.
There are a lot of characters in the film. It's overkill as most of the background people die horrible. The focus is spread thin amongst the leads. It would have been better to concentrate on a select few. The most entertaining by far is John C. Reilly. I won't give away his plotline, but he's hilarious; providing the majority of the laughs. Tom Hiddleston, a tremendous actor, seems out of his element and miscast. He's playing a tough guy role that doesn't suit him. Brie Larson is not the only female character, but central to the story. Thankfully, she is not a Fay Wray, damsel in distress, who needs constant rescuing.
The Vietnam era setting is puzzling. I'm not sure why the filmmakers chose it as the backdrop. Skull Island has a Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now vibe going for it. I believe this was the mood they were trying to emulate. There's even a scene where they blast music from the helicopters as they swoop in. It's well shot and looks good, but I think is a more of a wink and a nod to the seventies classic. An odd stylistic choice for a monster flick, but it doesn't detract from the action.
Kong: Skull Island has a pivotal scene that plays post-credits. Do not leave early or you will be missing a huge part of the story. It wraps up the film on a high note and will surely leave audiences in a tizzy. Highly recommended in the IMAX 3D or Dolby ATMOSS theater. They may be hard to find and expensive per ticket, but is worth it. From Warner Bros., Kong will pummel your monster-loving behinds to a glorious pulp.