It's been a challenging week. I had a day off. I needed a really good, big-ass roaring monster movie. Boy, did I pick the right one!

Kong: Skull Island is the best damned  big monster movie I've seen in years. I saw Cloverfield. Liked it. Saw Godzilla. Pretty impressed. Saw Jurassic Whatever. Whatever. Skull Island takes a bunch of classic Big Ass Monkey tropes that we feel like we've seen a million times (Kong, two remakes, son of kong, Konga, Gorgo, Jurassic Parks... all of them, The Valley of Gwangi, both those Japanese King Kong movies), dusts them off, stands them up circa 1974 , thrills you and makes you care without giving you the same old monster with a heart of gold gets dragged out of his kingdom and brought low by ignorant greedy humans plot.

Granted, I got there late... Seattle traffic sucks... missed the first fifteen minutes or so, but the plot was clear enough that I could reverse engineer the intro for myself. Got there as the choppers were taking off from the carrier on the "survey" mission (ahem), into the mother of all electrical storms. Dumb, dumb, dumb... let's go! "Geologist" John Goodman, Hard-ass Sam Jackson, Hero-ish Tom Hiddleston, Kong Bait Brie Larson, and a bunch of grunts led by the always great to watch Shea Wigham.

The good doctor, unbeknownst to but a couple of nerds, believes that the earth is hollow and that is how all these legendary monsters manage to stay mostly hidden from modern view. So he rooks the soldiers into dropping seismic charges on Skull Island to "map" it and by map, I mean wake up whatever the hell is sleeping in the caves below the surface. Crazy Fucker.

 Well, the Crazy Fucker is right. Very quicky they come face to face with a 100 foot tall ape thing, more humanoid than Peter Jackson's super gorilla. He rises upright through the flames, and in his rage swats a dozen or so choppers full of soldiers  and civilians out of the air, turning Sam Jackson from bitter Vietnam survivor into a khaki clad Captain Ahab.

You just know it ain't gonna end well. Mayhem ensues. Goopy, giant creatures take all by surprise and hell breaks loose one time after
another, leading to an encounter
with the locals, The Iwi,
a silent tribe of Aboriginals, who seem to speak mostly through painting and have been caring for an airman who crashed on the island in 1944

 John C. Reilly, who is good in EVERYTHING, but damn, if he doesn't show up, drop a bunch of exposition about how Kong is really the hero of the neighborhood and how what you haven't seen yet is much, MUCH worse...

and then he walks off with the movie in his pocket, because he put his heart and soul into that character. Believe me, there was not a dry eye in the house when the credits rolled.

The plot takes all the usual Kong tropes and makes them fresh. Crazy person in charge? Check! At least two! Handsome leads? Check... but no romance. Beautiful blonde heroine?
Check ... and kind of a badass!   Big ass primitive wall? Check... but the locals aren't afraid of Kong so what they design is very clever and practical. Kong in chains? Check... but the people don't put him there! Big-ass spider... OH, YES! Bigger than the Harry Potter one, bigger than the Tolkein one, really surprising... all the creatures ('cept the big guy) have one thing on common... they look like things in a tropical rainforest... meaning they look like all the things that surround them. Big fight which ends with Kong breaking the jaw of a dinosaur? ... almost. There's even a nod to "King Kong Vs. Godzilla" wherein Kong fights a giant octopus. There it was action. Here... it's lunch.

And Kong uses... tools. Make of that what you will.

At the end there's a couple of nice twists. It's satisfying to finally have characters in a movie like this realize the best thing to do is just back out gracefully... but beforehand the heroes have to come to the aid of the Big Monkey. He returns the favor and a few deserving souls get out with their lives.

Well acted, well executed, good animation and a nice hook at the end of the credits. Watch the home movie footage, sit through the mercifully short credits, and prepare to squeal at the button scene.

I'll give it 5 Bananas!


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