Tuesday, April 4, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island was written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly and John Gatins. Yep, that's right— it took a whopping four people to write this script. It was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts.

Gilroy previously wrote Freejack (the only sci-fi movie to ever star Mick Jagger!), Chasers, Two For The Money, The Fall, Real Steel, The Bourne Legacy and Nightcrawler. That's quite an eclectic list!

Borenstein previously wrote Swordswallowers And Thin Men (?) and Godzilla (2014).

Connolly and Gatins are apparently working partners, who previously wrote Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World and Monster Trucks (!!!). Now THAT'S a resume!

Vogt-Roberts is primarily a TV director. His only previous cinematic directorial gig was the indie film The Kings Of Summer. Seriously? That's it? He made one movie before this one?

I honestly don't understand why big-name movie studios keep handing these multimillion dollar tent pole pictures over to inexperienced directors who've only got one little indie film (if that!) under their belt. Jordan Vogt-Roberts does an admirable job here, but why risk so much on someone who's unproven? Wouldn't it make infinitely more sense to give the keys to one of these expensive films to an established director, who has a proven track record and knows how to handle the complexities of an effects-heavy movie?

I can think of one possible reason why studios do this. These days movie executives just lovvvvvve to interfere with films, making asinine suggestions in order to leave their mark on the project. 

A seasoned director would probably tell the studio to go f*ck themselves if they tried to interfere with his vision. A newbie director wouldn't want to make waves, so when the studio says jump, he's likely to say "how high?" with gusto. It still seems like a risky proposition to me though.

Overall it's a fun, action-packed sci-fi fantasy film, that's very reminiscent of the kind of big budget blockbusters I used to watch in the 1980s. That's a good thing, by the way!

There've been five previous American-produced Kong movies over the years: King Kong (1933), Son Of Kong (also in 1933), King Kong (the first remake, in 1976), King Kong Lives (a sequel to the 1976 film, in 1986) and King Kong (Peter Jackson's exercise in excess, in 2005). If you count the Japanese King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962) and King Kong Escapes (1967), then the total rises to seven.

Kong: Skull Island is ostensibly a remake of the 1976 King Kong, as it's set in the same era and features several similar plot points. There's also a generous helping of Apocalypse Now added to the mix (really!), a dash of Raiders Of The Lost Ark and even 
a bit of Moby Dick on the side. 

Strictly speaking, this is not a sequel to the 2015 Godzilla film, but it does take place in the same world. Kong: Skull Island is obviously Warner Bros. attempt at setting up a Monster Cinematic Universe, and getting a piece of that sweet, sweet shared world pie that Marvel Studios enjoys so much. Warner's introducing Kong into their little world here, so they can ultimately team him up against Godzilla in 2020!

Unlike the many previous versions of King Kong, this one deviates quite a bit from the standard plot. This time out Kong doesn't go ape (see what I did there?) for a pint-sized human blonde, instead keeping a discreet distance between her and himself at all times (maybe he has a restraining order against him?). OK, so he does give the female protagonist a couple of intense looks, but he doesn't lose his mind (or life!) over her this time around.

Plus for once the human characters don't get the bone-headed idea to take Kong back to civilization, as they leave him be at the end of the movie.  

So far the film's doing just OK here in the States, where it's grossed just $147 million against its $185 million budget. 
This puzzles me, as I thought it'd be a much bigger hit. Maybe the public hasn't yet recovered from the 2005 Peter Jackson remake, and is just Konged out? Or maybe Warner Bros. should have had the good sense not to release it at the same time as the Disney juggernaut Beauty And The Beast.

Fortunately the film's doing better overseas, where it's grossed around $330 million, for a worldwide total of $478 million.

Due to marketing and other hidden costs, movies these days need to gross about twice their production budget before they break even, so it looks like the rest of the world helped make Kong a hit.


The Plot:
In 1944, two planes battle it out in a dogfight over the South Pacific. Both planes end up damaged, and plummet to an island below. American pilot Lt. Hank Marlow and Japanese soldier Gunpei Ikari parachute to safety after their planes crash. Marlow sees Gunpei in the distance and fires at him, but misses. Gunpei chases Marlow, and draws his sword. The two men grapple on the side of a steep cliff. Just as Gunpei is about to impale Marlow, a gigantic ape head rises above the cliff, as the two gape in terror and amazement.

Cut to Washington D.C. in 1973, as Monarch official Bill Randa (played by John Goodman) and geologist Houston Brooks (played by Corey Hawkins) arrive at the Capitol Building to pester Sen. Willis (played briefly by Richard Jenkins) into funding an expedition to the newly-discovered and unexplored Skull Island. Willis is uninterested until Brooks points out that the Russians might find whatever's on the island before they do, and agrees to fund the trip. As a final favor, Randa asks Brooks for a military escort.

In Vietnam, the Sky Devils squadron is preparing to finally go home. Col. Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson) leads the squad, consisting of Capt. Earl Cole (played by Shea Whigam), Slivko, Reles, Miles and Jack Chapman (played by Toby Kebbell). Packard resents the fact that the U.S. is abandoning the Vietnamese War, instead of "winning" it. When he gets the call to escort Randa's expedition, he enthusiastically accepts.

Randa and Brooks visit a Thailand bar where they find former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad, who they want to hire as their tracker. Conrad lists all the ways they'll die on an uncharted island, and demands five times more money than they offer, plus a bonus if they survive. Randa balks, but the shaken Brooks agrees (Um... isn't Randa his boss? Is he really authorized to do that?).

The last member of the expedition to be recruited is Mason Weaver (played by Brie Larson), an anti-war photographer who believes her work helped end the Vietnamese conflict. She arrives at an army base in Vietnam, where she's met by Randa and Packard. She also meets a group from Landsat (a government geological mapping agency) who're also going along for the ride. Among the Landsat personnel are geologist San Lin (played by Jing Tian), Victor Nieves and Steve (no last name, please). Weaver wonders why a scientific expedition needs such a heavily-armed military presence, and voices her suspicions to Conrad (Bonding Moment Alert!).

The expedition takes off, and soon arrives at the Skull Island coordinates. The land mass is surrounded by a violent, perpetual hurricane, with the island in its eye. The ship captain refuses to sail through the storm wall, so Packard orders his squad to their choppers and flies through. It's touch and go for a while, as high winds and lightning threaten the choppers, but they eventually break through into a beautiful island paradise, filled with breathtaking scenery.

The scientists set up a camp and order to the choppers to begin dropping "seismic charges" in the jungle, ostensibly so their sensors can map the underground structure of the island. However, the charges look suspiciously like bombs and create massive explosions and flames when dropped. After a few minutes, one of the pilots notices what appears to be a large tree flying straight at his cockpit. Sure enough, a large tree flies straight through his cockpit.

Suddenly all one hundred feet of Kong appears, and he begins swatting at the choppers that are destroying his island. He knocks several to the ground and plucks more out of the air, ripping the copters in half. Within minutes, every one of the choppers is destroyed. Too bad none of the pilots thought to fly away from the giant ape, instead of at it.

The survivors are separated, with Conrad, Weaver, Brooks, Lin, Slivko, and Nieves in one group and Randa, Packard, Mills, Cole, and several redshirt soldiers in the other. Packard glares at Kong, seething with rage at the animal that killed so many of his men (Plot Point!). Meanwhile Conrad tells his group they have three days to get to the rendezvous point at the northern end of the island, or they'll be stuck here forever.

Packard pulls a gun on Randa, demanding to know what's going on. Randa shakily admits the Monarch Corporation has known of the existence of giant monsters living on and under the Earth for some time, and came here seeking proof of Kong. He tells Packard that the island belongs to Kong, and man is just a guest here.

Packard briefly hears Chapman on the radio before it cuts out. He takes his remaining squad in search of Chapman, whose chopper carried enough weapons to destroy Kong. They pass through a bamboo forest, and suddenly one of the soldiers is stabbed by something from above. They're then attacked by a gigantic spider, who's legs look exactly like the tall bamboo shafts. Mills is pulled up by the spider toward its claws, but is saved when the others begin hacking at its legs. Packard shoots the wounded spider in the head.

Meanwhile, Chapman rests near a river. He hears the massive Kong splashing through the water and hides. Kong bends down to drink, and to wash off his many wounds from the chopper blades. Suddenly a gigantic octopus attacks him. He battles it for a few seconds before ripping it apart and eating it.

Conrad's group encounters several more huge animals on their way north. They then discover what appears to be an ancient, abandoned temple. Suddenly a group of natives, who were perfectly camouflaged against the walls, pop out and surround them. Conrad's group forms a defensive circle, but he realizes they're hopelessly outnumbered.

Suddenly Marlow, now played by John C. Reilly, appears and tells them to lower their weapons. He introduces himself, saying he and his friend Gunpei have been living on the island for the past twenty eight years. Unfortunately Gunpei recently died. He takes the group through an enormous wall, where they're welcomed by the peaceful Iwi tribe.

Weaver notes that the wall, impressive as it is, could never keep out Kong. Marlow says Kong isn't the problem, as he protects the islanders and is a god to them. The wall's meant to keep out horrifying creatures he calls "Skull Crawlers," which live beneath the Earth. He says if anything ever happens to Kong, the Skull Crawlers will dominate the entire island.

Meanwhile, Chapman rests on a log that turns out to be another large and bizarre creature. It suddenly runs off in panic, and Chapman turns to see a Skull Crawler as it pounces on him.

Back at the Iwi city, Conrad tells Marlow they need to get to the northern end of the island in less than three days in order to be rescued. Marlow says it's impossible on foot, but they might make it by boat. He reveals a makeshift boat that he and Gunpei built over the years out of their wrecked airplanes.

Conrad and the others help get the "boat" in working order. Weaver looks out a door in the wall, and sees a ridiculously large water buffalo-like creature trapped under a fallen chopper. She tries to lift the chopper off it, but can't (no doubt!). Suddenly the chopper lifts into the air, and she sees Kong's picked it up. He looks at her for a few seconds, tosses the chopper away and walks off.

With the boat now running, Marlow bids a tearful farewell to the Iwi, and the group sets off down the river. Marlow asks various questions about the world (since he's been on the island for twenty eight years) and is amazed by the answers. He shows Conrad a photo of his wife, saying he found out she was pregnant right before he was went off to fight in WWII. He says he'd like to see his wife again, and meet his now-grown son. Slivko points out that Marlow's wife has undoubtedly remarried, as no one in their right mind would wait almost thirty years for him to return.

They sail along without incident for a while, until suddenly a pterosaur-like creature swoops down and carries off Nieves. He's pulled apart in mid-air by several of the creatures. Slivko hears Packard on the radio, and tells him to send up a flare. They spot the flare just a few miles away, and the two groups are reunited at last.

Conrad tells them they have a boat, but Packard insists on finding Chapman. Marlow says Chapman's deep in the Forbidden Zone, the territory of the Skull Crawlers. He strongly advises against entering there, but Packard insists. The group cautiously enters the foggy, foreboding area, and find numerous giant skeletons of Kong's ancestors. A Skull Crawler attacks, and the group hides among the bones. Conrad watches as the Skull Crawler vomits up Chapman's dog tags and skull, and realizes the soldier's dead.

Randa's trying to get his camera flash to work when he's attacked and devoured whole by another Skull Crawler (well that was.. anticlimactic!). His flash continues to go off inside it, and the group sees it moving around like a beacon in the thick fog. Suddenly more pterosaur-esque creatures attack, and it's every man for himself. Marlow kills dozens of bird-things with Gunpei's samurai sword, while Weaver kills one of the Skull Crawlers by igniting a small plume emitting flammable gas. Several more soldiers are killed before the Skull Crawlers are defeated.

Packard insists on finding Chapman, but Conrad informs him that he's dead. Packard doesn't care, as he says Chapman's chopper contained enough explosives to kill Kong, which seems to be his real motive. Conrad says he can do what he wants, but he, Weaver and Marlow are taking the civilians back to the boat. Packard orders his men to follow him to the crash site. They find the downed chopper, and Packard sets up an explosive trap for Kong.

Meanwhile, Conrad and Weaver climb a steep cliff to see if they can spot the boat. Kong suddenly appears and stares straight at them. Weaver tentatively holds out her hand and touches Kong's muzzle. Amazingly, he coos to her, and moves on. 
Man, these giant apes just can't resist a pretty blonde! Weaver realizes that Kong's not a threat, and they can't allow Packard to kill him. They head back to the downed chopper to stop him.

Packard then sets off several explosives to lure Kong to him. Kong approaches, splashing through a lake to get to him. Suddenly Packard ignites the gas-soaked water, engulfing Kong in flames. Enraged and in pain, Kong lashes out and kills several more soldiers, along with Steve Nolastname. Eventually Kong is overcome and collapses.

Just as Packard's about to detonate the explosives and kill Kong, Conrad and Weaver appear and try to stop him. They tell him that Kong's the only thing protecting the island from the Skull Crawlers, but he's too far gone and won't listen. Amazingly they talk the other soldiers into turning on Packard.

Suddenly the granddaddy of all Skull Crawlers bursts from beneath the flaming lake and attacks. Everyone runs, but Packard stays behind. Kong wakes up, sees Packard and crushes him with his fist. Yay, comeuppance!

Conrad and the others head for the river, as the Big Skull Crawler chases them. The soldiers empty their guns at it, but they have little or no effect. Cole stays behind and tells the others to head for the boat. He walks toward the Skull Crawler, armed with a dozen live grenades. Unfortunately the Skull Crawler's tail whips Cole out of the way, and he explodes harmlessly against a wall.

Just as the Skull Crawler is about to pounce on the group, Kong appears and battles it for a good five or ten minutes. Weaver shoots a flare into the Skull Crawler's eye, and it knocks her into the water. Kong gently scoops her out with one hand, while somehow battling the monster with the other. He finally reaches down its throat and pulls out its guts. He then carefully lays Weaver on the ground and leaves.

Conrad revives Weaver, and they, along with Marlow, Brooks, Lin, Mills and Slivko, jump on the boat. They make it to the north side, just as three rescue choppers appear in the distance. Kong watches them and lets out a roar.

As the credits roll, we see a cleaned-up Marlow approach his old home. His wife, who apparently did NOT remarry, is shocked beyond belief to see him. He meets his son, who's now nearly thirty. We then see Marlow enjoying a Cubs game on TV.

In an after-credits scene that I guarantee you 99.9% of the audience didn't stay to watch, we see Conrad and Weaver seemingly held against their will in an interrogation room at Monarch. Suddenly Brooks and Lin enter, and repeat the exact words that Randa said earlier— that Kong isn't the only monster in the world. They play them a slideshow, consisting of images of cave drawings depicting a giant dinosaur (Godzilla!), an enormous pterasaur (Rodan!), a humongous moth (Mothra!) and a three headed dragon (King Ghidorah!).

• One of my biggest of my many complaints about Godzilla 2014 is that we barely got to see the titular monster. Not so here! We get our first look at Kong less than five minutes into the movie! As it should be, in a kaiju film!

Kong: Skull Island was shot primarily in Hawaii. Coincidentally, that's where the 1976 King Kong was filmed as well.

• This particular version of Kong is the largest one we've seen in any film so far. He's described as being around a hundred feet tall, which is about four times larger than the Kong seen in Peter Jackson's remake.

At one point one Marlow mentions that Kong's still fairly young, implying that he hasn't yet reached his full height. This is supported by the fact that late in the film we see the massive gigantic skeletal remains of Kong's family.

I have no doubt the size increase was implemented so Kong can spar with the King Of The Monsters in Warner Bros.' upcoming Godzilla Vs. Kong. It wouldn't be much of a fight if Kong only came up to Godzilla's knee now, would it?

This Kong also seems to be more humanly-proportioned than the 2005 version. In fact he looks very much like the 1976 Kong, who was played by makeup artist Rick Baker wearing a gorilla suit.

By the way, I've pointed out several times before (in Godzilla 2014 and Pacific Rim) that it's physically impossible for a hundred foot tall monster to exist, so I won't go into it again here. Honestly this really doesn't bother me. Really, it doesn't! I just brought it up before mostly for fun.

• For some reason, both Terry Notary (left) and Toby Kebbell are listed in the credits as Kong.

Notary is a "Movement Coach" (which is apparently a thing) who should be familiar to anyone who's ever watched any of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit or The Lord Of The Rings behind-the-scenes documentaries. He helped created specific ways of moving for the various Middle-earth races, such as elves, dwarves and orcs. 

Notary also did the motion capture in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and the upcoming War For The Planet Of The Apes, where he played the Rocket character. So he knows his apes.

Kebbell is primarily an actor, but has done motion capture work in the past as well. He did the motion capture for the Koba character in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, as well as playing the orc Durotan in Warcraft

Kebbell does double duty in Kong: Skull Island, playing the unlucky Chapman as well.

It's not clear why Kong needed two motion capture experts to play him in this film. Some sources have claimed that Notary provided Kong's body movements, while Kebbell did his facial expressions. Eh, I don't know if I believe that, as it seems needlessly complex to use input from two men when one would suffice.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Notary probably provided the bulk of the motion capture, but was unavailable when it was time to film the inevitable reshoots, so they tapped Kebbell for that.

• J.K. Simmons was originally cast as Packard, and Michael Keaton as Marlow. Unfortunately both had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. They were replaced by Samuel L. Jackson  and John C. Reilly respectively.

• Actor Corey Hawkins plays geologist Houston Brooks in the film. Hawkins also recently played Heath on The Walking Dead. Well, sort of.

Despite the fact that Heath was a major character in the comic book for many years, the TV series has completely dropped the ball with him. He first showed up in the episode First Time Again, making just four very brief appearances in Season 6. His final (?) appearance was in the Season 7 episode Swear, in which it appears he died— offscreen, yet!

Why'd they go to the trouble of adding him to the series only to immediately ignore him?

• Chinese actress Tian Jing stars as San Lin in the film.

Jing was most recently seen in The Great Wall, in which she played General Lin. I guess she's contractually obligated to play characters named "Lin" in every movie she's in.

Jing is the film's designated Chinese Insurance Policy.™ What the heck is that, you ask? It means the producers weren't confident that Kong: Skull Island would be a hit in the States, so they tossed in an Asian actress so they could sell the film to China, where there's a billion potential customers with movie money burning holes in their pockets.

How do I know this? Because Jing's character has a total of eleven lines in the entire goddamned movie, a couple of which were in the goddamned after-credits scene! For most of the runtime she's little more than an extra, standing in the background. She might as well be part of the scenery.

I have nothing against Miss Jing, mind you, as none of this is her fault. But this is a cheap, obvious and detestable new practice, and I honestly don't see how it's much different from tokenism (in which a film includes a single member of a typically underrepresented group in a minor role to give the illusion of diversity). I'm very surprised the Social Justice Warriors in our country aren't making a huge stink over this issue.

• Shea Whigam plays Captain Earl Cole in the movie. You may recognize Whigam as Chief Dooley from Season One of Marvel's late, lamented Agent Carter series.

• Actor Marc Evan Jackson plays Steve, the LandSat employee without a last name. Jackson is primarily a TV actor, and has shown up in dozens of series over the years, including Reno: 911, Psych, Key & Peele, Arrested Development, Parks & Recreation, The Middle, Modern Family and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He usually plays comically dry lawyer types. He's been in a ton of commercials too.

I've always thought if Marvel ever needs someone to play Phil Coulson's brother on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., then Jackson's their man!

• Near the beginning of the film, Randa and Brooks pull up to the Capitol building, amid a huge student protest. As Randa gets out of the cab, he surveys the scene and mutters, "There's no way Washington will ever be more screwed up than this!" Eh? EH?? Get it? Randa says this in 1973, but here we are in 2017 and Washington's more messed up than ever before! Comedy Ahoy!

• At least three of the actors in the film play characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Tom Hiddleston (Loki in The Avengers and Thor films), Shea Whigham (Agent Dooley in the Agent Carter TV series) and John C. Reilly (Rhomann Dey in Guardians Of The Galaxy). 

Additionally, rumor has it that Brie Larson is being considered to play Captain Marvel in her own movie, which would bring the total to four. Of course at this point there's bound to be at least one Marvel actor in pretty much any movie.

For you sticklers out there, I didn't include Toby Kebbell as Dr. Doom, because the most recent Fantastic Four debacle wasn't a Marvel Studios movie, and it was a piece of hot garbage. So there.

• As the crew boards the ship, the Captain checks their names against the passenger list. When Weaver checks in, the Captain looks at her and says, "Mason Weaver is a woman?"

Really? We're still doing the old "But.. But Based On Your Gender-Neutral Name, I Naturally  Assumed You Were A Man!" joke?

• The ship transporting the expedition to Skull Island appears to have four, maybe five choppers on its deck. When the squadron takes off and flies through the perpetual storm, I counted at least thirteen helicopters in the air.

• As the squad of choppers takes off from the ship, Colonel Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson) says, "Hold onto your butts!" Jackson said the exact same line in Jurassic Park, when his Arnold character reset the power grid.

• There's a fun and arty little scene that occurs as the cast first arrives on Skull Island. We see a shot of several choppers flying low over the dense jungle foliage. Suddenly one of the "choppers" lands on a twig, and we realize it's actually a large dragonfly in the foreground! It's definitely a "Wait, what was that?" moment, and easy to miss if you're not paying attention. Pretty cool!

• I freely admit I enjoyed the awesome "Chopper Destroying Scene." That said, how the hell did Kong manage to obliterate all thirteen or so of them so easily? They're helicopters! They can fly! Last I checked, Kong's stuck on the ground!

All they had to do was fly in the opposite direction of the gigantic ape, or even better, slightly higher, and the rest of the movie would have taken a completely different direction.

They try to smooth this over a bit by having Packard order the choppers to attack Kong. Still, guns are a long range weapon. There's no reason you need to be fifty feet from a giant ape to shoot at it.

• I chuckled a bit during the movie when I saw that Tom Hiddleston's character was named Conrad, and John C. Reilly's was Marlow

Joseph Conrad wrote Heart Of Darkness, the story of a man named Marlow who sails up the river in the Congo to confront a notorious ivory trader named Kurtz.

If any of that sounds vaguely familiar to you, it's because Heart Of Darkness was the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, which tells the story of a man named named Willard who sails up a river in Vietnam to confront a notorious Army Colonel named Kurtz, who's set himself up as a local warlord.

Kong: Skull Island is lousy with Apocalypse Now references. The setting, the themes, the copters... even the poster!

• There were lots of other homages in the film as well.

At one point Chapman sees the massive Kong splashing into a river and clean his wounds. A giant octopus then attacks, and Kong struggles with it for a few minutes before eating it live. I'm betting this scene was an homage to 1962's King Kong Vs. Godzilla, in which Kong battles a giant octopus.

By the way, since the attack occurred in a river, I guess this is one of those fresh water giant octopi?

A bit later Packard's group is attacked in a bamboo forest by a giant spider. I'm pretty sure that was a callout to the infamous "spider pit" scene from the original King Kong, that was cut from the final print and is gone forever.

As Conrad's group is traipsing through the jungle, they hear what they think are birds in the distance. Marlow warns them that it's not birds, but "really big ants" making the sounds.

This is likely a reference to 1954's THEM!, which featured giant ants that sounded a lot like birds.

• Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a big anime fan, and included homages to a few of his favorites in the film.

When we first meet Marlow, he's wearing a leather jacket that says, "Good For Your Health" on the back.

This is probably a reference to Akira, in which main character Kaneda wore a jacket that said, "Good For Health, Bad For Education."

It could also be a shoutout to Dr. Steve Brule, the character Reilly played on Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Brule's catchphrase in his segments were "For your health!"

The look of the Skull Crawlers in the film were likely inspired by anime as well.

Specifically Sachiel, one of the Angels that attack in Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Their odd, two armed, snake-like bodies could also be an homage to this lizard-thing that popped up briefly in the original King Kong.

• Sadly, there are no dinosaurs on this version of Skull Island. They apparently existed there at one time though, as evidenced by this shot of a soldier using a triceratops skull as a defensive position.

• As I mentioned earlier, the movie deviates from the standard Kong tale by not dragging the giant ape back to civilization. 

While I appreciate the fact that they didn't rehash the same old story yet again, this change doesn't exactly do the movie any favors, as it leaves it without a proper ending. The film doesn't end so much as it just STOPS. The characters finally make it back to their rendezvous point, the rescue choppers arrive, Kong watches from afar to make sure these pesky invaders are really leaving, and then turns and walks away. Roll credits! That's it? THAT'S how you're ending your epic movie, with a sputtering non-ending like that? Eh.

• If you see the film in the theater, make sure you stay for the after credit scene, which sets up the whole Warner Bros. Monsterverse!

Unfortunately the stupid end credits ruined the surprise of the scene. Right at the tail end of the credits, there's a line that reads, "Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and King Gidorah copyright Toho Studios," which of course telegraphs what you're about to see! Thanks a lot, copyright lawyers, for spoiling the end credit scene!

Kong: Skull Island is an old school, action-packed monster movie that's much faster paced than the interminable 2005 version of Kong. Unlike the 2014 Godzilla, this giant monster movie actually shows us the monster! What a concept! It's also a heck of a lot of fun, and worth a look in the theater. I give it a B.

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