There seems to be a new trend in Hollywood where new, promising directors get picked to direct big studio movies instead of the household names. Think of Colin Trevorrow who got to follow up Safety Not Guaranteed with Jurassic World. Or Gareth Edwards who got his start with the low-budget drama Monsters and then got to make the very big budget flick Godzilla. And now you can add Jordan Vogt-Roberts to that list. You might know him from 2013’s The Kings Of Summer, a charming coming-of-age movie about three kids who decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. Go watch it if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth your time.
Which brings us to Kong: Skull Island, the idontknowhowmanieth movie about King Kong. The year is 1973 and a group of Vietnam soldiers and scientists led by John Goodman set out to map Skull Island’s geological interior with explosive charges. At least, that’s the official story. They actually just want to draw out Kong. That happens pretty fast… whereas other monster movies build op to the big reveal, Kong makes his entrance about half an hour into the movie and starts tossing helicopters left and right as if he’s swatting a fly.
Those who survive find themselves stuck on an island where they serve as little more than a buffet line for a shitload of nasty creatures. A lot of them get eaten so there’s no point in introducing them, but you do have the tough, quiet SAS officer (Tom Hiddleston), a Special Forces colonel (Samuel L. Jackson) who goes a little Apocalypse Now with his obsession to kill Kong, a war photographer played by Brie Larson and the abovementioned John Goodman. Oh, and there’s John C. Reilly who plays a World War II pilot who has been trapped on Skull Island for 28 years and who steals the movie from the second he makes his entrance.
The story might not be much of a jaw-dropper, but the way the movie looks definitely is. With the help of director of photography Larry Fong (300, Sucker Punch, Watchmen), Vogt-Roberts makes everything look stunning. I mean, that scene in the graveyard? Awesomeness. He also keeps up the pace with plenty of action scenes that never seem to repeat themselves, humor at all the right moments and just when you think you know what’s coming, he gives the movie a little nudge so that it veers off in a slightly different direction.
Is Kong: Skull Island an instant classic? No, because it lacks characters you truly care about. But it is two hours of solid entertainment.