There are places in the world modern man has never truly explored. Places where myth and science meet. Topographic points shrouded in mystery and mayhem that are nothing less than the home of monsters.
Now, in 1973, few people accept this truth. But Bill Randa embraces it. This intrepid explorer has, in fact, come right to the deadly edge of that truth. He’s seen the torn-up ships and demolished aircraft it has wrought. And he’s certain that Skull Island—a floating rocky mass perpetually surrounded and isolated by violent storms, dense fog and raging seas—is a home to something … monstrous.
Of course, he can’t just come right out and tell anybody that. He has to be more … subtle. And so after years of persuasion, Bill finally convinces a somewhat friendly senator to get the American government to finance an expedition to a certain mysterious isle in the Pacific.
Amid quite a lot of deception and secret agendas, there are some caring folks in the group who land on Skull Island. Mason Weaver is a female anti-war photojournalist who comes along for the purpose of recording any missteps by the U.S. government officials. But she ultimately puts her life on the line to help other civilians in the party find a way home. Former SIS agent James Conrad, meanwhile, is hired by Bill Randa for his tracking experience; he too puts everything on the line for the survivors.
One soldier sacrifices his life to protect his comrades, though his efforts don’t have much effect. Two veteran WWII combatants from different sides of that conflict put aside their differences for the sake of mutual survival and become close friends. A pilot, missing for 28 years, tearfully reunites with family members.
In a prologue to the movie’s action, we see two WWII pilots—one American, one Japanese—in a knock-down, drag-out battle involving guns, blades and fists. From there, though, the thumping action is on a much larger scale.
Kong demolishes a squadron of helicopters, crushing and tearing apart the aircraft and their occupants. We see men crushed under the outsized ape’s feet, thrown up against mountainsides, consumed in blazing explosions and tossed into Kong’s mouth.
A gigantic, lizard-like creature takes physical destruction up a notch further, gobbling up soldiers and civilians, chomping into its unfortunate victims with rows of huge, razor-sharp teeth. (In one case, we see the partially digested remains of a man that are vomited up on the ground.) A man grabbed by enormous bat-like avians tug him in various directions until he’s dismembered. An enormous spider drives its huge leg into a man’s mouth and down through his body.
Meanwhile, Kong and the island’s other monstrous inhabitants also rip and tear at one another in extended, environment-demolishing battles. Kong struggles with an enormous octopus, for instance, before ripping its body apart and swallowing some still-wriggling tentacles.
“Twas beauty that killed the beast!”
OK, well, not so much here. In fact, Kong and actress Brie Larson don’t even get that much screen time together. The big hairy ape doesn’t make his way to New York City or scale a famous skyscraper. There’s not really even all that much of a story in his tale.
That said, the narrative DNA of 1933’s classic King Kong classic is still smeared all over this pic like a thick coat of hair, gristle and blood. The titular protagonist is a Gorilla Grande who’s ever ready for a sharp-toothed roaring close-up. He’s a gargantuan headliner, stripped down to his pure, thump-a-chest, pounding-action basics—including explosions, flying bullets and jaw-snapping, monster-mashing carnage.
Mind you, all of that massive monkey business comes complete with the blanch-worthy bloodletting of Hollywood’s current CGI wizardry. Don’t come seeking light, stop-action charm in this popcorn-muncher. No, the gigantic beasties of Skull Island deliver flesh-rending, human-gobbling and goopy disgorging from start to finish, the kind you might expect if you ran into real two-story-tall spiders or sneering monstrosities with pointy teeth the size of Buicks.
This is an old-fashioned creature-feature, to be sure. But it’s definitely not your grandfather’s kid-friendly Kong.
By Focus on the Family Singapore. This review was adapted from Plugged In: the entertainment guide your family needs to make family appropriate decisions through movie reviews, book reviews, TV reviews, and more.