Adventure Doesn’t Get Much Bigger Than Kong
- Jeffrey Huston Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2017 9 Mar
A spectacular monster movie that gives you everything you're looking for: shocks, laughs, and thrills, all impressively rendered on a huge big budget scale. Some scares really push the PG-13 limits, as does brief strong language, but this is a well-crafted thrill ride interested in pushing only one agenda: fun (even the post-credits bonus sequence is worth waiting around for). 4 out of 5.
Set in 1973 near the end of the Vietnam War, Kong: Skull Island reboots the iconic monster's mythology by mixing core elements of past incarnations into a new era. A senior government official, Bill Randa (John Goodman), assembles an elite team of soldiers and scientists from various fields, backgrounds, and nationalities for a covert mission to an uncharted island. Although its inhabitants and terrain are a mystery, Randa believes that unknown species live and thrive there. As he puts it, this island is "the land where God did not finish Creation." Once there, the expedition gets even more than they bargained for, not only in the form of the giant gorilla King Kong but also a whole series of overgrown animals and monsters, the fiercest being a species of nasty creatures dubbed Skull Crawlers. After the team is split apart, they must work to reunite – with the help of an old eccentric World War II pilot (John C. Reilly) who's been stranded there for 30 years – and devise an escape plan while also trying to stay alive.
As satisfying an escapist entertainment as any in memory, Kong: Skull Island feels like the kind of movie you'd get from Michael Bay if he were actually a great filmmaker. Nothing feels lazy, everything is precise, and rarely have creature effects been so well done. Absolutely amazing monster movie mayhem. It's as if we're finally getting a glimpse of why CGI technology was invented. Crushing any lingering disappointments from Peter Jackson's bloated King Kong failure, this film offers an efficient story with smart characters, all brought to life by a great cast that is adept at both drama and comedy in equal measure. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are the grounded leads, Samuel L. Jackson and Goodman offer stalwart character work, Shea Whigham adds courage to his war vet's comic indifference, and Reilly puts a hilarious spin on the stranded World War II pilot but also layers him with depth and sentiment. In only his second movie, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts shows as much command over modern day special effects as he does an affinity for old school moviemaking. Pulling visual influences from war classics like Apocalypse Now and Platoon while setting aside any political messaging or metaphors, Vogt-Roberts gives an air of substance to his thrills without forcing in clunky commentary where it's neither needed nor wanted.
In terms of quality of execution, there's not much to get hung up on, nitpick, or complain about. Some might grumble that Skull Island have anything on its mind, but the fundamentals of plotting and character are so well done that a lack of messaging ends up being a virtue. The biggest warning here is age appropriateness. Parents should apply the PG-13 rating literally, at the very least (if not more, depending on the child).
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
There's barely any worldview, Christian or otherwise. Courage and sacrifice eventually come into play, particularly involving soldiers and military veterans.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language.
- Language/Profanity: Several instances of profanities, but not pervasive, including one non-sexual use of the F-word. A few S-words and A-words, several H-words and D-words. One 'MF' is started/suggested but not actually said.
- Sexuality/Nudity: Brief kissing and embracing. A brothel is briefly depicted early on, with women in background suggestively dressed.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Several instances of non-graphic violence (fighting between people and the like). Many sequences of intense violence and scares involve monsters against monsters, and monsters attacking people. One person is impaled by a huge shaft through his throat and into his body. Another person is ripped apart (from afar) by creatures. People are eaten alive by creatures. Some characters are caught on fire. Kong rips apart a creature and pulls out its innards. Some of the gigantic creatures are ugly and scary. Some people are attacked and killed by monsters, including a major attack scene by Kong against military helicopters. It's mostly not too bloody or gory, but the actions (as cited) can become gruesome in nature. A lot of scenes are very frightening and scary, both in the build up of suspense as well as the attacks. There is a good deal of weaponry, from guns used by soldiers as well as on aircraft.
Drugs/Alcohol: Brief tobacco use. Soldiers drink to celebrate the end of a war. A moment of an officer drinking beer alone. Drug use briefly/vaguely suggested.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Older teens and adults looking for exciting popcorn thrills. Not for kids, or sensitive middle schoolers. Also, classic movie fans will appreciate the stylistic influences of 1970s era war films.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Children under 13, or cinema buffs who don't like big loud Hollywood movies, even when they're well made.
Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, opened in theaters March 10, 2017; available for home viewing July 18, 2017. It runs 120 minutes, and stars the Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Shea Whigham, Jason Mitchell, Tian Jing, Corey Hawkins. Watch the trailer for Kong: Skull Island here.
Jeff Huston is a writer/director/editor for Steelehouse Productions, a film & video production company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also publishes a movie blog that can be found at icantunseethatmovie.com, and is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle. In 2015, his short film Pink Shorts was a finalist in HBO's Project Greenlight competition, and was one of six winners in that show's online "Greenie Awards."
Publication date: March 9, 2017