'Kong: Skull Island' leaves viewers on a stunning adventure

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / MGN)


Score: B

Rated PG-13 -- 118 Minutes

"Welcome to Skull Island. Kong like you have never seen him before."

KING KONG, the iconic movie monster with a heart. That giant colossal ape first appeared on the screen in 1933. It was such a critical hit that it was remade in 1976, and again in 2005. The character inspired "countless sequels, remakes, spin-offs, imitators, parodies, cartoons, books, comics, video games, theme park rides and a stage play" (Wikipedia).

In the original design of Bob Stupak's Stratosphere, he wanted to build a 70-foot gorilla on the side of the casino hotel. The gorilla would be loaded with 48 passengers who would scale part way down the tower. Then, missing its step at one point, it would plunge for a 30-foot free fall. The neighbors quickly said no to that. I still can remember the original Stratosphere slots with the gorilla emblem on each machine.

KING KONG was the creation of American filmmaker Merian C. Cooper. In the 1933 film, "the character's name was Kong, a name given to him by the inhabitants of Skull Island in the Indian Ocean. Kong lived there along with other oversized animals such as a plesiosaur, pterosaurs and other dinosaurs" (Wikipedia).

The biography of Merian C. Cooper tells the story of a filmmaker, who, as a young boy, was fascinated with a book written in 1861, "Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa." Author Paul Du Chaillu wrote of one particular gorilla that is "known for its extraordinary size and according to the natives is invincible and is the King of the African Forest." Later in the book, Chaillu describes the terror of a "hellish dream creature" that was "half man, half beast."

In doing my own research for this movie review, I know that I have just scratched the surface. So in a marvelous way, the 2017 film is actually based on an 1861 book. KONG: SKULL ISLAND is an absolutely engrossing two-hour adventure. It is also a film that should only be seen in 3-D IMAX. The visuals are nothing less than stunning. Credit director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who should have a long, promising career ahead of himself. This is only his third film. Credit also Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly for a screenplay full of action, drama, and spectacle.

The cast should be pretty familiar to everyone. Tom Hiddleston (THOR, THE AVENGERS, and WAR HORSE); Samuel L. Jackson (PULP FICTION, DJANGO UNCHAINED, and THE HATEFUL EIGHT); John Goodman (BARTON FINK, THE ARTIST, and ARGO); Brie Larson (Academy Award Winner for ROOM); and especially John C. Reilly – who almost steals the movie from Kong (nominated for an Oscar in CHICAGO).

As of today, there now have been eight King Kong films. In 1962, there was KING KONG VS GODZILLA. Warner Brothers has already announced that on May 29, 2020, GODZILLA VS KONG will be released. SKULL ISLAND is just a good, spirited, and well-crafted film. The action never stops, due in large measure to Larry Fong and his camera. In the end, no one will be disappointed because this Kong is both a monster, yet also a hero.

SPOILER ALERT: Don't you dare make a quick exit from the theater. Do not leave until all the end credits have rolled! Remember, it's not over until it's over!


Next week we review the latest in the Disney series of converting their animated classics into live-action films, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Which one will be better – the animated classic or the new live-action? The elephant in the room may be the film – which adds 45 minutes to the 1991 cartoon.