Kong: Skull Island Review Roundup: Critics Call It a "Rip-Roaring Rumble in the Jungle"

John Goodman, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and John C. Reilly star in the movie

By Zach Johnson Mar 09, 2017 5:40 PMTags
Watch: Brie Larson Talks Love Scenes With Tom Hiddleston

The Eighth Wonder of the World is back.

The colossal ape returns to the big screen Friday in Kong: Skull Island. It's the second film in Legendary's MonsterVerse, following 2014's Godzilla. While the blockbuster draws inspiration from the 1933 classic King Kong (as well as the 1976 and 2005 remakes), screenwriters Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein wrote an entirely new script from a story by John Gatins and Gilroy.

Jordan Vogt-Roberts directed the PG-13 movie, which features John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Toby Kebbell, Brie Larson, Thomas Mann, Jason Mitchell, Terry Notary, John Ortiz, John C. Reilly, Jing Tian and Shea Whigham among its ensemble cast.

Here's what critics are saying about the Warner Bros. Pictures movie:

• "The dialogue is clunky, the A-list actors are slumming and, yeah, you've seen it all before. But Kong: Skull Island is a creature feature that's damn near irresistible," Rolling Stone's Peter Travers writes. But the "loony epic" takes audiences on "a rip-roaring rumble in the jungle," thanks to Vogt-Roberts, who "directs like a kid in a candy store." The action scenes save the movie from "the swamp of clichés," he adds. "The effects are way cool and thunderously exciting. Really, what else do you need to know? Grab your popcorn and strap in for the ride."

Brie Larson's Best Looks

• "Mix King Kong with The Lost World, spike it with a bracing dash of Apocalypse Now and you've got Kong: Skull Island, in which Warner Bros. finally gets the effects-driven fantasy adventure formula right again after numerous misfires," The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy writes. "This highly entertaining return of one of the cinema's most enduring giant beasts moves like crazy—the film feels more like 90 minutes than two hours—and achieves an ideal balance between wild action, throwaway humor, genre refreshment and, perhaps most impressively, a nonchalant awareness of its own modest importance in the bigger scheme of things; unlike most modern franchise blockbusters, it doesn't try to pummel you into submission."

• "The picture is grand and nutty and visually splendid: Vogt-Roberts knows he's gotta go big or go home, so he treads boldly, even channeling an Apocalypse Now vibe when military choppers whirl, with ill intent, over Kong's tropical paradise," TIME's Stephanie Zacharek writes. While the actors are "wonderful," Zacharek says Kong is "the principal dancer in his own primeval ballet, leathery of chest and furry of butt. His brow is broad, flat and noble. His eyes hold both the warmth and sadness of a million suns, or maybe just the memory of the giant banana he may have eaten for breakfast—but no matter what, he's the movie's soulful center. Kong lives."

• "Once again, a lot of the noise and action involve guns, monsters and crashing jungle chases, but the most promising moments involve King Kong and the really little lady he unexpectedly meets," The New York Times' Manohla Dargis writes. While Kong is occasionally "sidelined" in his own movie, the film still "has momentum, polish and behemoths that slither and thunder."

Tom Hiddleston: Movie Star

• A "rousing and smartly crafted primordial-beastie spectacular," Kong: Skull Island allows its titular character to emerge "as just the hero we want him to be: noble but raging—a primate god who will rear up and destroy, but only when threatened," Variety's Owen Glieberman writes. And while "the characters may be a touch minimal," he says, "that doesn't mean they're boring; the actors fill them in." Reilly's performance "is terrifically dry and sly," while Larson "takes a generic role and infuses it with vibrance." Hiddleston "never takes over the movie, but he's crisp and hearty," despite his posh accent, while Jackson "scores as a humanized bad guy."

• With a "compelling" titular character, a "lively premise" and "vivid visuals," Kong: Skull Island " starts out promising enough," The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turran writes. Larson is "almost completely wasted," and by the movie's end, "it devolved into an 'all monsters all the time' format that privileges the grotesque over everything else, including the big ape himself. Story and soul are never going to be kings on Skull Island, but they could have fared better than this."

• Not enough time is spent with Kong, "a visual effects wonder," USA Today's Brian Truitt writes. "All the monsters, though, are missed when they're not around, even the weirdly cute insecty thing that hides as a downed tree. They tend to be much more watchable than soldiers hanging out listening to '70s rock," he adds. "Kong still commands respect when he's unleashed upon cinemas, and even in limited action, his presence alone makes it worth a trip to Skull Island."

Are you planning to see Kong: Skull Island this weekend? Sound off in the comments.