When it was first announced that Legendary and Warner Bros. were planning to reboot the story of King Kong as part of their ever expanding MonsterVerse, we must admit we were somewhat miffed. After all, Peter Jackson had given audiences the definitive retelling of the giant ape's capture and eventual demise in New York City back in 2005, did the studios really think they could top it?
However, what we felt was going to be another love letter to Merian C. Cooper's 1933 classic turned out to be something more akin to Jurassic Park meets Apocalypse Now...
...and is it ever amazing!
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the story kicks off in 1944 with a pair of enemy pilots crash landing on an uncharted island in the south pacific. Although both survive, each is intent on killing the other - until their confrontation is interrupted by the arrival of a massive ape known as Kong.
We then fast-forward to 1973 near the end of the Vietnam War, where a government agent named Bill Randa (John Goodman) begins putting together a team of experts to venture onto an uncharted landmass known as Skull Island. Consisting of tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and a helicopter squadron under the command of the tough-as-nails Lieutenant-Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), the group departs the United States under the guise of a geological research team and soon arrive at their location.
Upon arrival, the team begin dropping bombs to map out the mysterious location, however they are soon set upon by the behemoth monster known as Kong, who ends up killing a number of Packard's men and scattering the survivors across the primordial landscape.
After regrouping with some of the survivors, Packard confronts Bill Randa, who reveals his connection to the mysterious government agency known as Monarch. Randa informs Packard that this group was formed in an effort to prove the existence of ancient monsters and determine their threat to the human race. On the other side of the island, Conrad, Weaver, seismologist Houston Brooks, biologist San Lin, soldier Reg Slivko and Landsat employee Victor Nieves regroup and begin making their way to a rendezvous point to meet a resupply team arriving in three days' time. Along the way, this group encounters the local Iwi tribe and fighter pilot Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), one of the soldiers we first encountered at the beginning of the film.
Marlow informs the small group of survivors that Kong is considered to be the island's guardian. Worshipped as a god, the monstrous ape protects the island's inhabitants from many vicious predators, including the deadly Skullcrawlers, who are responsible for wiping out King's ancestors and leaving him the very last of his kind.
Conrad's group help Marlow put the finishing touches on a boat he's been working on and they take it down the river, and manage to secure communication with Packard's group. Soon the two groups unite, with Packard insisting they search for a missing soldier, though his true objective is to find and kill Kong for killing so many of his men.
Marlow then leads the survivors to a mass grave littered with the bones of Kong's ancestors. It is here where the group first encounter the Skullcrawlers. A battle ensues, with several individuals dying as a result. During the tussle, Packard learns what really happened to his missing man and becomes determined to kill Kong once and for all. This causes the group to split, with Packard's group laying a trap for Kong and the non-military personnel head back to the boat. It is not long after the groups separate that both Conrad and Weaver encounter the behemoth ape and resolve to save the magnificent creature from the vengeful Packard.
The soldiers lure Kong away using napalm explosions. The giant charges to the lake, where he is quickly incapacitated with ignited gasoline. Conrad's group arrives and persuades the other soldiers to spare the ape's life and stop Packard before he kills them all. Suddenly, massive Skullcrawler emerges from the lake and attacks the group. Kong recovers and engages the beast, eventually emerging victorious and killing the monster once and for all.
The battle over, the survivors of Skull Island leave their primordial location behind once and for all. As the credits role, we see Marlow finally reunited with his wife and son after 28 terrifying years, while Conrad and Weaver end up detained by Monarch to learn the truth about their world.
Kong: Skull Island is downright fantastic from start to finish! Packed full of action, it is a visual delight to behold that is complemented all the more so by the lush green setting making up the majority of the film's setting. The acting is spot on, with every cast member doing a spectacular job, however it is Sam Jackson, John C. Reilly and John Goodman who really stand out.
Jackson is fantastically chilling in the role of Lieutenant-Colonel Preston Packard and pulls off the part of a shell-shocked career military man almost perfectly. Despite his vengeful attitude toward Kong, one can't help but feel sorry for this man, who clearly has nothing left after giving his youth to defend his country in Vietnam and who is forced to face the very real possibility that the excursion to Skull Island may be his last adventure.
Reilly expertly captures World War II pilot Hank Marlow as a man out of touch with the world. A broken man existing as a remnant of a bygone time, Marlow wants nothing more than to go home. Despite spending nearly three decades trapped on Skull Island as a respected member of the Iwi tribe, Marlow knows he must get back home and reunite with his loved ones - even if he is unsure of being able to face the world that awaits him following twenty-eight years cut off from civilization.
Goodman's portrayal of government agent Bill Randa gives us a desperate man who has seen many things in his lifetime, but who's reputation has been tarnished attempting to prove they actually happened. Randa is on Skull Island for one thing only - proof. Desperate to prove that these monsters exist, Randa knows that if he can just bring something back, he may be able to salvage a shred of his reputation in the field - something he clearly wants above everything else.
The special effects throughout the film are also wondrous to behold. Kong looks fantastic, as do the other denizens of Skull Island. Watching these monsters interact with members of he cast and each other is loads of fun, and fans will have plenty to enjoy during the duration of the film.
The Blu-Ray comes crammed full of special features meant to immerse fans more deeply into the world of the MonsterVerse. Aside from the mandatory commentary tracks and deleted scenes, audiences can also enjoy a two-part documentary delving into the creation of Kong, join Tom Hiddleston on a tour of the set, or learn more about the mysterious organization known as Monarch and their purpose in finding and studying massive unidentified terrestrial organisms.
In short, Jordan Vogt-Roberts has so expertly crafted the tale of a lonely, morose God lumbering around his island home that we sincerely hope Warner Bros. and Legendary will be bringing him back for another romp within the MonsterVerse. This is no mere retelling of the 1933 classic, but the next logical step in the progression of the fantastic world first experienced in Gareth Edwards Godzilla. This is a fun-filled, action-packed thrill ride that fans are sure to love!
From flaming skulls to fearsome monsters, there's lots to love in Kong: Skull Island.
The film is available on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD today!
Special thanks to Tyler Robinson of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Until next time, Infinite Earths fans!