It’s 1973 and the Vietnam War is winding down — the perfect time for gung-ho conspiracy theorist Bill Randa (John Goodman) to persuade the embattled Nixon administration to back his plan to explore a mysterious island in the Pacific Ocean.
Those along for the expedition include renegade British operative James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), self-described antiwar photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), Randa’s bookish associate Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) and disgruntled U.S. military commander Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson).
Skull Island turns out to be anything but a tranquil paradise — a fact that’s immediately apparent when the ad hoc group of adventurers has its first encounter with a giant ape who effortlessly slaps away their helicopters. Indeed, Kong is king of his domain. But he’s far from being the only threat to the expedition: The island is teeming with frightful creatures that apparently didn’t get the memo that they should be extinct.
Clearly, Skull Island is a potential goldmine for scientific research. And Weaver should capture enough breathtaking images to result in a coffee-table book or a Pulitzer Prize. But Packard, frustrated at the outcome of the war, is all for killing anything that moves. That is, if he can stay alive long enough.
“Kong: Skull Island” delivers a lot of thrills, but not much more than that. Working from a screenplay by Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”), Derek Connolly (“Jurassic World”) and Max Borenstein, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) keeps things moving as he updates the old-fashioned adventure flick. But at the end of the day, this is a movie about people getting eaten by exotic animals.
Oddly, Kong is a no-show for much of the film, appearing only occasionally — perhaps to remind us that he’s actually in it. But his hulking presence is hardly missed amid the frenzy of activity.
If you’re looking for a film that offers pure escapism, “Kong: Skull Island” should definitely meet expectations.
What “Kong: Skull Island” • Three stars out of four • Run time 1:58 • Rating PG-13 • Content Intense action and violence and strong language