It can be said that the latest Hollywood treatment of King Kong, Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ would not have been possible without the success of ‘Godzilla 2014’ (reviewed here: link), Gareth Edwards’ reboot of our beloved Japanese big lizard franchise which went on to gross over $500 million worldwide. So confident was Legendary Pictures in the popularity of its newly minted “Monsterverse,” scheduled to culminate in the battle royale between the ape and lizard (what a marquee matchup, eh?) in 2020, it shelled out a production budget of $185 million for ‘Skull Island,’ plus another $130 million in ancillary marketing/advertising costs making it that much harder to turn a profit.
‘Kong: Skull Island’ takes place in 1973 (as the Vietnam War winds down) on Kong’s mythical homeworld, a primeval “lost world” somewhere in the South Pacific. Members of a shady government program dubbed “Monarch” (John Goodman and some black dude) organize an expedition onto Skull Island in search of god-knows-what. With a Huey air cavalry squadron led by brash and gung-ho Samuel L. Jackson providing muscle, former SAS man-turned-mercenary Tom Hiddleston as tracker/guide and photojournalist Brie Larson tagging along to record the momentous event for posterity, our hapless explorers find more than they bargained for in this most unforgiving of hostile environments.
With nods to ‘Apocalypse Now’ (cue breathtaking sunset backdrop and “Rise of the Valkyries” formation flying before being punched out of the air by you-know-who) and ‘Jurassic Park’ (yes, people got devoured by giant reptiles), ‘Skull Island’ can hardly be called original. Yet despite all that it is an exceedingly entertaining popcorn B-movie that even the most cynical of viewers will find difficult not to enjoy. The action comes hard and fast, the cinematography and visuals are simply gorgeous, and the Great Ape had never seemed so… human and humane. Whether or not ‘Kong: Skull Island’ ultimately recoups its insanely high budget, it maintained the tradition of King Kong movie excellence and whetted our appetites for Kong’s highly anticipated smack-down against the giant radioactive-spawned reptile currently slated for May 29, 2020 (after said reptile's sequel due out on March 22, 2019, that is).