The most notable thing about Kong: Skull Island, for me, is that it shows how far the MPAA rating system has come. Rated PG-13, Kong: Skull Island made me, and my Disney-loving date, realize how 13-year olds must be a lot tougher than we were at that age.
Tom Hiddleston, with lead billing, delivers a palatable but bland performance. Largely emotionless, his James Conrad is a perpetually calm tracker, leading the rest of the cast through the exotic wilderness with survival skills that seem more of a valuable contribution than his part in the movie as the ‘cold Brit.’
Regardless, like Will Smith or Chris Pratt, Hiddleston’s characters at their worst can still bring an effortless charisma, and he makes for a passable lead. Standing opposite him is a slightly more animated Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a fairly well-executed antagonist, despite being another “Angry-Sam-Jackson” role, John Goodman as the mad scientist ,and Brie Larson as the heroine with too little to do. John C. Reilly overshadows everyone with his wild man pilot character Hank Marlow. Lost to Skull Island after a WWII dogfight that went sour, Marlow has enthusiasm where the others are surpressed, and is heartbreaking when lamenting his lost time. Reilly steals all of his scenes, but it is not only his performance that is unique — he is also the only character that adds variety to the human-involved action scenes. There are only so many ways that the movie can show fatigue-clad marines impotently shooting M16s at invincible monsters; Reilly wields a short samurai sword, which makes for some admittedly cool action scenes, alongside several excellent set pieces.
The movie is named Kong for a reason, and the titular giant ape makes for the movie’s best moments. Regardless of how extensive the CGI must have been to properly animate every raised eyebrow or every weaponized palm tree, Kong himself looks uncomfortably real. All of the monsters in the film do — this is where Skull Island will put off some viewers, as each creature-of-the-minute succeeds in being eerie and well-animated. It is not a stretch to say the job was done too well; there are multiple instances of genuine horror throughout the movie, one scene standing out as particularly brutal for the many arachnophobes that may watch.
Dismemberments, decapitations, detonations and devouring occur as if on loop; it is impossible not to flinch, at times, for even the most hardened of viewers. With this in mind, Kong Skull Island was an enjoyable experience. With giant monsters punching the crap out of each other until gleefully cinematic final blows, Kong delivers on its premise more than its stale predecessor, 2014’s Godzilla. Bogged down by a few too many filler characters, it would do well to shed a handful of minutes, but keep all of the monsters. For the love of Kong, keep all of the monsters.