By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT'S KONG: SKULL ISLAND ABOUT?
In 1973 a group of American soldiers join scientists, a photographer, and a mercenary to explore an uncharted island, an island where monsters still exist.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A-)
A bold and thrilling new vision for the King Kong legend, Kong: Skull Island takes audiences away from the “giant ape beast falls for tiny human woman” story trope and delivers instead something unique. Inventive direction, cinematography, and editing are a highlight here, as are impressive visual effects and hard-hitting action.
The human characters don't evolve much, but they are well-drawn and well-performed. Samuel L. Jackson is chilling as a lieutenant colonel, jaded from Vietnam, hungry for a battle he can win. Tom Hiddleston is both compassionate and macho as a soldier-of-fortune trying to keep people alive. John Goodman goes darker than usual to solid effect. John C. Reilly starts as comic relief and exposition-deliverer, but reveals genuine pathos later on.
Brie Larson is the real standout here, along with Kong himself. As a peace-loving photojournalist, she has a radiant smile that conveys genuine wonder and joy. She's also strong, fierce, and vulnerable here. It's a fine balance and, as mentioned she doesn't grow or evolve much, but she delivers in her performance. Kong is a marvel of design, as are the monsters with which he does battle on the island. Fast-paced and thrilling, with just the right balance of humor, emotion, and spectacle, Kong: Skull Island is excellent escapist fun. Stay through the closing credits.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
Kong: Skull Island is rated PG-13. (minor spoilers) It has strong violence and some gore as soldiers battle giant monsters; some of the men are eaten alive (with some blood), others are crushed, thrown, or burned. One is torn apart by pterodactyl-type creatures (seen in silhouette), another is impaled through the mouth by a spider's leg. There is one f-word and other moderate profanities scattered throughout. A few women dance somewhat seductively and lead men into curtained rooms at a nightclub (the camera doesn't linger). Some men are seen shirtless and a woman wears a tank-top.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
First impressions are not always accurate. Sometimes those who seem to be our enemies act as they do with valid reasons. Everyone's perspective makes sense to them. Revenge is a fruitless pursuit.
If you've got younger kids, start them out on the original 1933 KING KONG. It's not as bloody or intense as the new one, but it will hold their interest!