Review: Kong: Skull Island: Excessive colon: edition
There's a moment early in Kong: Skull Island that involves a sandwich.
If the moment I'm referring to makes you cackle with delight, you can relax and know that you will be happy with just about everything that follows. (Full disclosure: I know this because I am one of those people.)
This is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be, which is a movie about giant monsters smashing things, with the marine squad from Aliens there to comment on what's happening and, frequently, to be the target of the smashing.
Kong is clearly a labor of love for the creators, with lots of callbacks and echoes of previous installments given a fresh twist. There is a battle between Kong and a squadron of aircraft, as there have been in all his movies, but the cause of the battle and its outcome are different. Kong picks up the pretty girl in his giant furry hand, but for a different reason and, again, with a different outcome. The script even manages to contrive an unlikely way to wrap Kong in chains, if only because it would not feel like a King Kong movie if he was not given some chains to break out of.
It would be easy for a critic to take all the references to Apocalypse Now and the Vietnam War and see Kong as a commentary on war in general or the American experience in Vietnam specifically, but I didn't see it that way. This was a movie first and foremost about giant monsters fighting each other, and the humans that sometimes get in their way; the setting was just a convenient way to throw in cool images of helicopters and a classic-rock heavy soundtrack. The design of all the creatures is detailed and interesting, Kong himself most of all. The monster smashing has a satisfying weight to it, in a way that the Transformers movies for example aspired to but never managed to achieve.
Beneath all the spectacle and destruction, the human characters feel a bit peripheral, though John C Reilly is outstanding and I loved just about every scene he was in. Sam Jackson does Sam Jackson things, and generally does them well. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are fine, though the script doesn't give them a whole lot to do most of the time apart from running through the jungle and looking tough. I don't think I could tell you the name of a single human character, and that did not detract from my enjoyment of Kong in the least.
If you have an inner 12-year-old that loves seeing monsters smash things, do him a favor and take him to see Kong: Skull Island.