Released March 10, 2017
Rated PG-13 (Sci-Fi Violence, Action, Brief Strong Language)
1 hr. 58 min.
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer, Cocked)
Written by Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy, Nightcrawler), Max Borenstein (Swordswallowers and Thin Men, Godzilla), Derek Connolly (Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World), and John Gatins (Real Steel, Flight)
Cinematography by Larry Fong (300, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Music by Henry Jackman (Kingsman: The Secret Service, X-Men: First Class)
Edited by Richard Pearson (Quantum of Solace, Justice League)
Produced by Alex Garcia (300: Rise of an Empire, Krampus), Jon Jashni (Pacific Rim, Godzilla), Mary Parent (Noah, The Revenant), and Thomas Tull (Crimson Peak, The Great Wall)
Starring Tom Hiddleston (High-Rise, Thor: Ragnarok), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, The Avengers), Brie Larson (21 Jump Street, Room), John C. Reilly (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, 10 Cloverfield Lane), Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, The Walking Dead), John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook, Fast & Furious), Tian Jing (Special ID, The Great Wall), Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Warcraft: The Beginning), Jason Mitchell (Contraband, Keanu), Shea Whigham (American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street), Thomas Mann (Project X, Me and Earle and the Dying Girl), Eugene Cordero (The Kings of Summer, Ghostbusters), and Marc Evan Jackson (22 Jump Street, Parks and Recreation)

Kong: Skull Island might have faded in and out of the pop culture consciousness if it hadn’t been for the fiery passion of the gun-for-hire director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, and his endless campaign to argue with the critics who trashed his movie. Needless to say, that piqued my interest.

Critic reception to Skull Island was pretty much “it’s decent.” It has a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average critic rating of 6.5/10. The average critic score on Metacritic is 62%. Most of the critics I follow at least liked it a little. The general response was basically, “It’s decent, throwaway, monster movie fun.” You would think Vogt-Roberts would be pleased with that, but, instead, he has gone so far as to engage in social media feuds with some of his harshest critics. Even Max Landis got involved. Oh, well. Artists will be artists, I guess. But what’s the movie like?

I actually think you should check out Skull Island, if you haven’t already. Maybe you, like I, were turned away by either the “it’s pretty average” responses you heard or by the director vs. critics drama. Either way, it all boils down to this: Kong: Skull Island is one of the most fun monster movies I’ve seen in a while! It’s a mash-up of old-fashioned, H. Rider Haggard-type adventures; classic monster movies; and an Apocalypse Now Vietnam war flick. Does it live up to those influences? Most of the time, I say yes!

Image via Cartoon Brew

Is it a messy movie? Yeah. You can tell that a bunch of writers and producers all had their hands in this thing. The cinematography, lighting, and colorization varies oddly from scene to scene; the characters are paper-thin; the tunes used are hard on the nose; the plotting is all over the place; and more. Yet the actors are all good (just look at the starring list above!); Fong got in a variety of fantastic shots alongside his more pedestrian work; the visual effects and designs are, for the most part, good, especially on the creatures; the pacing is brisk; and the movie, as a whole, is just fun to watch.

Most importantly, Skull Island gives us what we came for most: Kong. Remember Godzilla? That was a good movie – a better movie than this, I think – but it took forever for us to finally get a good look at what we all paid money to see: the monster, Godzilla. Vogt-Roberts and the crew, here, don’t go that route. Kong makes his first appearance in the opening scene of the movie, and we get to see him really throw down less than thirty minutes in. Then, after that, the movie just keeps giving us more of that. Kong gets to fight helicopters, human traps, a giant octopus, and several giant lizard cave creatures. And the humans get to interact with other monsters as well.

Look, I had to see this movie to investigate all that racket. In the end, did it deserve all that noise? No. But it is campy, B movie fun, with A movie acting and effects and film-making that lies somewhere in between. And it delivers in a way most monster movies don’t these days.

I’m going to give Kong: Skull Island a 63%.

It’s on streaming and DVD/Blu-Ray now, so rent it, order a pizza, and sit down to a couple of hours of fun before the holidays drain you!