Set in the 1970s, Kong: Skull Island follows a team of soldiers, scientists, and explorers who join forces to determine whether a unique ecosystem exists on a remote, mysterious isle. Bill Randa (John Goodman) hypothesizes that nuclear bombs dropped on the island were not just tests, but rather a calculated effort to destroy something alarming. James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) lead the charge and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) is right there with them documenting the expedition on film. They quickly discover that Skull Island is indeed a world unto itself, and Kong (the skyscraper sized gorilla we know so well) is the least of their problems.
Kong-sized spiders, water buffalo, and bizarre, unidentified reptiles all inhabit the dark corners of the island, making travel shockingly perilous. The more these explorers muscle their way into Skull Island, proclaiming that its “monsters” must be destroyed to protect mankind, the more you smack yourself on the forehead and yell, “Why?! You’re the intruder!” Thankfully there are plenty of gigantic creatures to burst forth from the jungle and give these obnoxious characters their comeuppance.
Not everyone on the expedition is a horrible person – James and Mason are appropriately respectful of their surroundings – and as a heartwarming surprise, the group encounters Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a talkative soldier who’s been missing in action for at least two decades. Though he’s adapted to life on Skull Island and befriended the locals, he’s acutely aware of the years he’s missed with his wife and the son he’s never met. In many ways, Marlow serves as the heart of the movie, both with his affable nature and in giving purpose to this ridiculous adventure. For the most part, the expedition to Skull Island is purely destructive, but if Marlow can be returned to the life he lost, there is at least a shred of redemption in this dark tale. There are glimpses of deeper themes in Kong: Skull Island (you can tell the writers were totally self-aware just by their nod to Heart of Darkness with the use of the names Conrad and Marlow), but the emphasis on special effects and action ensures that we never dig too far beneath the surface.
Extra features include Director’s Commentary, Deleted scenes, and the making-of featurettes “Creating a King: Realizing an Icon”, “Creating a King: Summoning a God”, “Monarch Files”, “Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler”, “Through the Lens: Brie Larson’s Photography”, and “On Location: Vietnam”.