'Kong: Skull Island' or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the Kong (review)

Hulking monsters, heartily silly action and plenty of 'Nam flashbacks -- "Kong: Skull Island" is the creature feature for big-budget B-movie fans.

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Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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Let's get this out of the way. I love monster movies. The tackier, the better. Low-budget, high-thrills, over in two hours, popcorn tub empty.

But the problem? They're low budget. The CGI is laughable, the story is thin and, worst of all, you only get one or two giant beasts to fill your screen. See Godzilla, you'll get some Mothra. Come for Megashark, stay for Crocosaurus. In the era of sharks in tornadoes, how do you raise the stakes?

You make "Kong: Skull Island" -- the movie that exclaims "Monsters exist!" in dripping-blood font, then follows with a wink and a muttered, "No shit."


John C. Reilly, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston head up a cast of big names playing opposite an even bigger ape.

Warner Bros. Pictures

It's a film filled to its oversized gills with monsters. It's silly, ridiculous and kind of terrible -- just like "Scorpionsquid vs. Lizardblizzard" or whatever they're making these days -- but it's also the best terrible movie you'll see this year.

The Vietnam War has ended, the world is on the cusp of the satellite age, and the Yanks need to get to the world's last uncharted territory, Skull Island, before the Ruskies. Our crazy scientist/mercenary (John Goodman) has his eyes on that prize, as well as the mysteries below the island's bedrock.But how will he get there?

With a rag-tag, cigarette-chomping military escort, headed up by Samuel L. Jackson and packed with soldiers one day away from heading home. One day? Heck yes! You know the body count here is going to be good.

To say the film borrows from "Apocalypse Now" is like saying Marlon Brando looked a little heavy. It's Ape-ocalypse, and how. It's Kurtz in a Kong suit. Hell, even the film's British special ops tracker (played by the miscast but ultimately forgivable Tom Hiddleston) is named Conrad.

The Klassic Kong elements are there too, with Brie Larson's wartime photojournalist playing a refreshingly shriek-free heroine, and John C. Reilly as a salty war hero with just the right amount of crazy.

Our soldiers and civilians have just three days to traipse across Skull Island, getting muddier and more desperate (while Hiddleston's linen shirts stay GQ fresh) in an attempt to meet a rescue pick-up on the northern edge.

Three days? That's only three sunsets to giddily splash across the screen in breathless Coppola tribute! But "Kong" makes excellent use of them, giving us 'Nam sunset flashbacks with a cheeky B-movie twist.


Needs more sunset.

Warner Bros. Pictures

The soundtrack leans heavily on the wartime crutch too, with psychedelic rock and enough Creedence Clearwater Revival to make you feel like you've just enlisted. It's not adventurous, but it's what we've come to expect in movies that target Gen-Spotify and audiences that have grown up on pastiche (I'm looking at you "Suicide Squad").

But forget the music, you came for Kong!

I won't lie: I was disappointed to see the big guy so early in the piece. But don't dust off your popcorn-covered hands and go home. You'll soon realise that, while the ape's name is on the marquee, he's certainly not the only thing lurking in the shadows.

And that's what makes this creature feature so damn silly and fun.

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It's Hiddleston, Jackson and Larson starring in "Too Many Monsters!" This one here might crush you, that one might impale you and you could be sitting on another one right now -- on Skull Island, everything is supersized, slithering and scaly.

Best of all, you have a front row seat to the world's deadliest camping trip and the epic Monster vs. Monster battles that ensue. And you'll get the kind of CGI that low-budget titles dream of.

If "Lion" was the movie that got us excited about Google Maps again, "Kong" is the movie that says, "Geospatial technology? Nuts to that! Fill the place with monsters and they'll never want to go back!"

It's kinda terrible. And boy howdy do I want to see it again.

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