KONG: SKULL ISLAND Is Fucking Awesome

Get ready for the best kaiju film in years.

Early on in Kong: Skull Island, the titular gorilla takes a bath in a river, nursing a wound that a helicopter rotor gave him (if you've seen the trailer, you probably know where this moment happens). As a frightened Toby Kebbell stares in awe, Kong just sorta chills in the river...right before a giant octopus springs out of the water and attacks the fifty foot tall gorilla. Kong beats the ever loving shit out of it, takes a big bite out of its tentacle, and drags the rest of its carcass into the jungle to eat later.

Kong: Skull Island is full of these moments. Grand and bombastic, yet played with nonchalant confidence. Jordan Vogt-Roberts, like Jordan Peele this year, comes into a genre (and a budget) he hasn't worked in before and demonstrates an immediate and encyclopedic knowledge of it. His Kong toes the line between benevolent and ruthless, which is kind of the macro identity of this film itself.

The premise is nothing we haven't seen before: In the final days of the Vietnam War, a bunch of scientists (led by John Goodman), hire a bunch of soldiers (led by Samuel L Jackson) to explore an uncharted island where a suspected Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism (one of many Godzilla winks) may be living. Goodman's character sorta tricks the army, making them think it's just a simple geological survey.

So, you know. Shit happens. Kong gets mad. Helicopters are smashed, and people, including a hired tracker played by Tom Hiddleston and a photographer played by Brie Larson, are stranded.

Vogt-Roberts has a lot of fun walking the tightrope between character and cipher here. We don't really know so much about everybody here, but we know enough -- they're mostly likable, and they're absolutely terrified. And as the movie dances forward, we learn they're very, very expendable. Star power doesn't save any of these folks. It's super refreshing.

Sam Jackson's Preston is another story. We learn early on that this is a man who didn't quite get what he wanted out of the war -- so when Kong kills his men, Preston decides to start another war of his very own. If Preston were played by anybody else, this might have been a little silly, but Jackson sells the shit out of this part.

Also in play is John C. Reilly, playing a World War II fighter pilot who's been stranded on Skull Island for 25 years. Reilly's performance is his best since Walk Hard, and he shines bright as a guy who reengages with hope upon meeting our hapless heroes. He turns back and forth from grave seriousness to hilarity on a dime, and it's great. He's great. Guys, if you watch this movies for anything, it should be for him. You really want his character to get home.

But, we don't go to a movie called Kong: Skull Island for the humans. We're here for monster fightin', and the monster fightin' on display here is great. There's all sorts of creepy crawlies on this island; we got giant spiders, squids, sentient log bugs, and most of all, enormous lizards called Skullcrawlers. Skullcrawlers are this film's velociraptor, and the deaths they deal are equal parts terrifying and awesome.

I'd be remiss without mentioning Jordan Vogt-Roberts' visual flair. Working with Zack Snyder's go-to DP Larry Fong, Vogt-Roberts brings out all the color our eyes can take even before we get to the island. This isn't a half assed summer blockbuster that forgets to be creative in a rush to get to the monster stuff.

It's not a spoiler to say this film ends in a giant monster brawl with Kong, so rest assured you will leave satisfied on all fronts. Kong: Skull Island is a two hour massage for kaiju film fans. It's definitely worth your time.

(PS. Jordan -- Don't think I didn't see your Metal Gear Solid wink when you named that boat the Gray Fox)

Terry Erickson is a screenwriter, lifelong film fan, and all around good guy based in Baltimore, MD. He's driven across America twice, is obsessed with Back To The Future, and loves almost everybody.