The original King Kong (1933), starring Fay Wray, was about an expedition to an uncharted island in the Indian Ocean that was inhabited by prehistoric creatures. The explorers captured and caged a gigantic ape and put it on exhibition in New York as the 8th Wonder of the World.
Kong escapes and wreaks havoc in the city before scaling the face of the Empire State Building during one of the most iconic climaxes in the annals of cinema. A spin-off, Son of Kong, was released later that year, and launched a series of sequels and remakes.
Kong: Skull Island is a refreshing remake of the original and co-stars Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, and Tom Hiddleston. The film was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts who made his debut in 2013 with the comedy The Kings of Summer.
The special effects adventure unfolds in the 1970s, near the end of the Vietnam conflict. As the film opens, we find Bill Randa (Goodman) pressuring a U.S. senator (Richard Jenkins) to underwrite an expedition to a Pacific island that is constantly surrounded by treacherous storms that have caused the mysterious disappearance of countless boats and airplanes.
Once the expedition is approved, Randa assembles a crew composed of a photographer (Larson), a geologist (Corey Hawkins), a biologist (Jing Tian), and a bureaucrat (John Ortiz). The team is escorted to the island by a squadron of Vietnam veterans led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Jackson).
It’s man versus monsters in a struggle to survive in a hellhole that time forgot. Stay until the end of the credits and you’ll see an extended postscript previewing Godzilla vs. Kong, a sequel slated for release in the spring of 2020.
Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for action, intense violence, and brief profanity. Running time: 118 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.