Kong: Skull Island

This film has some little twists and turns that make it far better than you might have anticipated.

Kong Skull IslandKong: Skull Island is a fun action film that really should be seen at an IMAX theater. The special effects are a beauty to behold and the accompanying soundtrack which includes “White Rabbit” (Grace Slick), “Time Has Come Today” (The Chambers Brothers) and John Fogerty’s “Bad Moon Rising” and “Run to the Jungle” will have many of you acting ape-like in your seats.

The film begins with battling fighter pilots from the U.S. and Japan crash landing on a South Pacific island in 1944. Engaged in a fight to the death, they are suddenly confronted by a giant furry beast that forces them to become allies.

The film then jumps ahead to 1973, where the Vietnam War is ending in both confusion and regret. In the process, a scientific foundation led by Bill Randa (the affable John Goodman) organizes a group of Vietnam veterans to explore an unknown island in the South Pacific.

This is where the adventure begins. With the sought after island surrounded by vicious storm clouds, our explorers are forced to board 13 helicopters and depart from their ship. Emerging unscathed, they make the mistake of releasing incendiary bombs on the island to measure the topography. Feeling under attack, Kong emerges to everyone’s regret. With many helicopters destroyed, a portion of our crew is left struggling to live on dry land.

As our survivors battle many forms of large monsters, a strange bearded man comes to their rescue. His name is Hank Marlowe (an expected funny John C. Reilly), the survivor from World War II who has been living with native island inhabitants. This group soon surprisingly dominates the heart and soul of this film.

While I won’t spoil your surprise, Kong proves to be completely misunderstood. That is eventually realized by the guide of our remaining party, James Conrad (played with expected style and energy by the talented Tom Hiddleston) and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a photographer who holds her own though she is completely surrounded by men.

However, the leader of our group of military veterans, Lieutenant Preston Packard, is set on killing Kong in light of the destruction caused to the helicopters referred to above. Samuel L. Jackson plays Lt. Packard, and he eventually morphs into the classic character played by Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979).

This likeable movie was largely filmed in the Northern Province of Vietnam. In that regard, when the helicopters first see dry land, wait ‘til you see their view of the volcanic islands rising in Ha Long Bay. Monica and I spent two weeks last year cruising the coast of Vietnam, and we took a kayak through a section of Ha Long Bay that I will long remember.

Regardless, take the time to see this film. In particular, watch for a surprise during the closing credits. Most of you will be leaving the theater with a smile on your face saying, “Well, I’ll be damned!”