Minor Spoilers Ahead The movie opens in 1944 in the aftermath of a dogfight over a supposedly inhabited island. Hank Marlow (later played by John C. Reily) is an American pilot who successfully parachutes out and lands on the island. Unluckily for him, a Japanese pilot also parachutes to safety and when he lands, a fight begins. Neither gains the upper hand but the Japanese pilot has a sword so Hank flees into the jungle. They later continue to fight but it's interrupted when a certain "monster" makes an appearance.
After a montage of world events following WW2, the movie picks up again in 1973. Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brookes (Corey Hawkins) are 2 scientists from the Monarch Corp. on Capital Hill for a meeting with Senator Willis (Richard Jenkins). He tries to skirt the meeting, America has just announced its withdrawal from the Vietnam War. Bill and Houston want to map Skull Island geologically to look for mineral deposits. Willis isn't having any of it until Bill mentions that this could be an opportunity to beat the Russians to the island. But they have to assemble a security team to investigate and protect the scientists including a helicopter division led by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a former SAS officer James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and a war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson).
Having seen the trailers for this movie, you would think it would be largely led by Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson but this is actually more of an ensemble movie. Some of the supporting actors actually end up leading the movie for large periods of time. The plus side of this is that they create some cool characters, they're all interesting and their motivations are clear and understandable. Almost every ensemble movie has problems sharing the screen time and this one is no exception. James and Mason were interesting but you didn't get as much time to latch onto them as you probably should have. Other characters lack purpose, I like Toby Kebbell as an actor but his character Jack Chapman has almost no bearing on anything and just acts as a device to get the plot moving.
One of the surprising things about this movie is that it ended up being a lot funnier than I expected. Some people were worried about tonal issues because the trailer showed this frightening monster destroying everything and then it showed the cast cracking a joke. There are some small moments where something violent would happen and then they would try to bring some comedy in. The tone of Kong: Skull Island reminded me a lot of classic adventure movies like Indiana Jones where they weren't afraid to go dark yet they managed to create a memorable movie by including some impressive action and funny jokes. Tonally there are moments where the movie borders on being cheesy but they're few and far between.
Speaking of the action, they really went for it here. Kong is a force of nature and the way he decimates his enemies is surprisingly violent. They give away some of the best bits in the trailer but my favourite parts were when they first encounter Kong travelling to the island and the ending fight between Kong and the other creatures on the island. This is a PG-13 movie that isn't afraid to give you what you want which is some bone-crunching action.
Every frame of this movie is gorgeous too. This is one of the few big budget movies where I didn't feel like it had CGI overload. The environment is beautiful and the movie has some very stylish cinematography. Some of this is expected but I still feel like they went the extra mile. The creatures on the island aren't completely new designs but they're fun to look at and they help bring the sense of epic to Kong: Skull Island. The effects around Kong are also excellent, his look and movements are consistent and I didn't see any flaws in it. You also get some fun stuff like the music from the period too.
The cast here is pretty impressive, they went the extra mile to get some top-shelf talent and the movie largely benefits. Hiddleston is good, he could have carried more of this but he's decent in his spot. Brie Larson elevates her role, I think this movie shows how talented she is because in the grand scheme she's more of a background character than you realize. Samuel L. Jackson was decent, he gets more over-the-top as the movie goes along but he fits. Surprisingly, a lot of the supporting characters stole the show, John C. Reily had the best performance. He changes the dynamic of the movie, he has all the quotable lines and his ending is played pitch perfect. Jason Mitchell was a surprise standout, he was good in Straight Outta Compton but he steals a lot of the scenes he's in. If there was anyone I was disappointed in, John Goodman came across as pretty flat. I don't know if that was his fault or his role.
I don't think that this movie was flawless. Other than what I mentioned above, the only other things I would mention is that the dialogue could have used a little punching up in spots and the editing was a little choppy in the second half. Scenes transition and people end up in different places than they last were and events happen in sequence that don't fit together completely.
People seemed worried that the trailers for this movie looked so good, they were bracing themselves for upcoming disappointment. Let me put those fears at ease, this movie wasn't perfect but it was easily one of the better movies I've seen so far this year. I liked this better than the latest Godzilla movie.
Review by CANpatbuck3664 from the Internet Movie Database.