Kong: Skull Island Is a Glorious Beast of a Movie

Although most of the action in Kong: Skull Island is set in the early 1970s (get ready for a blaring jukebox of classic acid rock in the soundtrack, kiddies!), the opening frames of the film feature a ferocious fight between two World War II soldiers – one American, and one Japanese – that’s so exciting you might wonder if your knuckles could get any whiter. But that is just the beginning of an ever-mounting action-packed adventure that might be too scary for younger kids.

Kong: Skull Island

2017, PG-13

The story begins in earnest when government researcher Bill Randa (John Goodman) gets his superiors to sign off on an expensive, unorthodox expedition. A mishmash of scientists, soldiers and pencil-pushers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean that Randa insists hides sinister secrets that his troop will succeed in uncovering.

Cut off from everything they know, their mission of discovery becomes one of immense danger and they are soon forced to escape from a primal world where modern-day man does not belong. Not to mention modern-day woman – Brie Larson is sorta-kinda the Fay Wray of the picture, but fortunately she’s not subjected to any amorous advances (not from the ape, or her ostensible love interest, played by Tom Hiddleston). She’s a solid, self-possessed character that girls can look up to; not once does she faint, scream, or beg a man to save her.

Larson is Weaver, a season war photojournalist and peace activist, while Hiddleston plays Captain James Conrad, a former British SAS officer and current soldier of fortune. She shoots with her camera, while he totes a military rifle. So does the cast’s other heavy-hitter, Samuel L. Jackson, as Packard, a hawkish Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army. He leads a bold and brash entrance into Skull Island’s airspace with a hail of helicopters, a bevy of bombs, and a score of soldiers to announced their arrival. Kong is not amused and the carnage commences.

Kong looks similar to the simian of the original 1933 classic, with just a few flourishes to make him more menacing and to appeal to the modern-day cinephile. He’s imbued with an air of intellect, but isn’t anthropomorphized in any way. The hulking beast is seen early on, and throughout – you definitely get your popcorn’s worth. When it comes to the human characters in Kong: Skull Island, I thought they were all well-drawn as far as backstory and personality traits – even though a good number of them are there simply to expire, none are cardboard cutouts. John C. Reilly, in particular, adds depth and dimension to the tale as Ralph Marlow, a WWII soldier who was stranded on Skull Island back in the 1940s.

I saw an early screening in 2D, so I can only imagine how much more exciting it’s going to be when it’s released in 3D and IMAX 3D. Although it’s rated PG-13, it pushes the boundaries – there’s some cursing, eviscerations aplenty, and fairly intense moments of suspense (it’s on par with the Jurassic Park films in terms of gore, but turned up just a notch). Older kids will definitely be first in line to see Kong conquer all, but the little ones should stay home.

This one will make a great double-feature with another throwback revival: The Mummy.

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Visit Common Sense Media for more info on this movie’s appropriateness for your child.

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