Bill Randa (John Goodman: Patriots Day) believes in monsters. Now he’s got the funding to prove it. Joining the Vietnam War-era exploration of an uncharted island in the Pacific are geologists, biologists and former S.A.S. officer James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston: The Night Manager). Anti-war photographer (Brie Larson: Room) manages to crash the top-secret mission, for no apparent reason. Completing the company is a helicopter platoon led by Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson: xXx: Return of Xander Cage), slightly deranged from fighting a long, bloody and unpopular war.
Supporting the expedition are high-tech equipment, impressive firepower and equipment to maintain an island camp for several days. They’re prepared to take samples, acquire data and bring anything valuable back for the government.
What they’re not prepared for is a 30-plus-foot gorilla that knocks helicopters out of the air like they’re mosquitos and a host of otherworldly wildlife.
Nor are the survivors prepared for Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly: Sing), a WWII fighter pilot who’s been living on the island since crashing there in the 1940s. Marlow explains that Kong isn’t a monster but a protector keeping the people of the island and the earth safe from real monsters.
With its amazing creatures and fun action sequences Kong: Skull Island is a beautiful example of the power of special effects. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (You’re the Worst) supplies all the necessities for a monster movie: Impressive creature, plenty of cannon fodder, one handsome male lead to tell everyone what to do and a blonde woman for whom both ape and men fall.
The humans have less to offer.
As cannon fodder the soldiers provide more chemistry and interest than the leads. Hiddleston must have been the only square-jawed personage walking past the studio during casting. He spends most of his screen time posing majestically while action happens around him. As his leading lady, Oscar-winner Larson has even less to do. Reilly’s castaway Marlow is the exception, with a performance that’s both entertaining and emotionally resonant.
All is not lost, however. The creatures of Skull Island are wonderful. Kong (performed by Toby Kebbell) is an impressive, stoic warrior with a face far more expressive than anything these humans show us. He is joined by frightening toothy lizards and many more bizarre critters, including a giant spider that has the audience squirming.
Fair Action • PG-13 • 120 mins.