'Kong: Skull Island' movie review

'Kong' looks great but it's all been done before

This is the eighth time we've seen King Kong on the big screen — and he's never looked better.

"Kong: Skull Island" is a gorgeous-looking, action-packed movie that plays like a prequel to the traditional King Kong narrative. Set in 1973, the film follows a group of scientists funded by the U.S. government, escorted by an Army helicopter squad and joined by a British tracker and a war photojournalist, as they explore a mysterious uncharted island in the South Pacific.

Nearly the entire film is set on Skull Island, as the group navigates its treacherous lands and comes across its many larger-than-life species including a gigantic spider that's sure to be nightmare fuel for many audience members.

 

So let's get down to brass tacks: Why did this movie need to be made?

The story of King Kong—a giant ape who really just wants to be left alone but is inevitably bothered by pesky humans—is one of Hollywood's greatest tales. It's an allegory that's been used to condemn colonialism, slavery and other human atrocities since the first movie version hit screens in 1933. And as special effects continue to get more realistic, movies about mythical creatures like Kong will continue to be retooled. "Kong: Skull Island" isn't the first time we've seen "King Kong" remade and it definitely won't be the last.

The good news is that "Kong: Skull Island" is a very solid reboot. The film cost Warner Bros. about $190 million to produce and it shows in every frame.

I saw the movie in 3D and recommend you do the same. Typically I don't enjoy watching movies in 3D but it's clear "Skull Island" was designed to be viewed that way. The landscapes are wide, the colors are rich and the frames look deep with digital detail.

This movie also boasts a strong cast. At the top, we've got a ripped Tom Hiddleston (Loki from "The Avengers" series) as the renegade tracker and Oscar winner Brie Larson ("Room") as the photographer. This is Larson's first time in a blockbuster action role and she fills the role with ease. Her smile and energy light up the screen and when she needs to sling a weapon, she's believably fierce.

The supporting cast is bolstered by veteran actors including John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly, who each give life to their characters. Corey Hawkins ("Straight Outta Compton" and Fox's "24: Legacy") also plays a prominent role as a scientist. I like this guy more every time I see him on screen.

The problem with "Skull Island" is that it doesn't bring anything original to the table. Everything is predictable and cliche.

The soundtrack is loaded with early '70s rock—which is awesome—but you've heard all the songs in a hundred other Vietnam movies. Many of the shots were also lifted straight from "Apocalypse Now," including an early helicopter scene and a sequence where yellow-tinted gases fill the air, limiting the group's vision.

The characters are all stock: A tough-guy rebel; a lunatic Army colonel; a conspiracy nut who's hiding his true agenda; a righteous anti-war journalist. But the actors rise above the limited meat of their characters.

Despite its issues with cliches "Kong: Skull Island" is a fun watch that's loaded with exciting action sequences. King Kong is still one of Hollywood's best characters and this latest reboot gives him the dignity and awesome power he deserves.

See "Skull Island" on the biggest screen you can find.

Clint's Grade: ★★★☆☆

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"Kong: Skull Island"

Release Date: March 10, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language)
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writers: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein
Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson

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Clint Davis covers entertainment and trending news topics for the Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.

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