'Kong: Skull Island' Review Round-Up: The Monster Movie Is Back In A Big Way

This weekend brings Kong: Skull Island to theaters, and while some weren't necessarily thrilled at the prospect of another King Kong movie, the early reviews indicate that this is an absolute blast of a monster movie, the likes of which we haven't seen in awhile.

We've already posted our own review of Kong: Skull Island, singing the praises of this truly gnarly action adventure, which is just chock-full of gruesome monsters. But if you're still on the fence, we thought now would be a good time to round up reviews from around the web to give you a broader idea of what director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has brought to the table with his impressive ensemble cast of actors and creatures.

First, here's a new trailer that debuted today, but we think it shows far too much of the goods, so watch at your own risk:

Robbie Collin at The Telegraph celebrated the monster movie's action:

The carnage is flamboyant past the point of cartoonishness, but it's also frequently outrageous in a way you're never quite steeled for: for a sense of the tone, imagine Steven Spielberg's The Lost World if it had been written and directed by Gremlins-era Joe Dante. (The Hawaiian backdrops – and a certain Jackson line of dialogue – are Jurassic Park through and through.)

Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter makes a reference to The Lost World in his review as well:

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. 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.

Bilge Ebiri at The Village Voice calls it a "B-movie in a nice new suit, for better or worse," but seems to acknowledge that's what makes it entertaining:

The film offers up plenty of wartime atmosphere and grim backstory, and the constant carnage of soldiers and explorers getting tossed and crushed and eaten by pseudo-prehistoric beasts is certainly anxiety-inducing — at least for the plastic people onscreen. But despite all that, it remains a charming, insistent trifle, a monster movie that's unafraid to be cruel while also mining the genre's inherent silliness

Mark Hughes at Forbes found a lot to love, complete with title puns:

Call it Ape-pocalypse Now, call it Raiders of the Lost Ape, or just call it a damn fine monster-mash adventure of epic popcorn proportions. Kong: Skull Island is a fast-paced adrenaline rush that gives us lots of CGI eye candy, lots of thrilling action sequences and scary moments, lots of laughs, and lots of charismatic performers who keep our attention focused on the sheer fun of it all without sweating the details.

Kong Skull Island

It's not all fun, as Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian didn't enjoy the movie and wasn't shy about saying as much:

Deep in the distant jungle ... the undergrowth stirs, the lagoons froth, the branches shake and a huge monster rears terrifyingly up on its haunches, blotting out the sun. Run for your lives! It's a 700 ft turkey, making squawking and gobbling noises and preparing to lay a gigantic egg.

This fantastically muddled and exasperatingly dull quasi-update of the King Kong story looks like a zestless mashup of Jurassic Park, Apocalypse Now and a few exotic visual borrowings from Miss Saigon. It gets nowhere near the elemental power of the original King Kong or indeed Peter Jackson's game remake; it's something Ed Wood Jr might have made with a trillion dollars to do what he liked with but minus the fun.

Owen Gleiberman at Variety praises the monsters who keep popping up throughout the adventure:

A "King Kong" movie should, first and foremost, be a fairy tale of primeval wonder, and this one is. The director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, takes much of his inspiration from the original Skull Island sequence of the 1933 "King Kong," with its storybook dinosaurs, and you may also detect the influence of "The Mysterious Island," the 1961 Ray Harryhausen classic that featured an eye-popping array of giant creatures. In "Skull Island," the island is brimming with oversize species, from sad-eyed yaks to a giant stick-bug to swarms of blue-blooded pterodactyls to a towering spider that hovers over a forest to the octopus whose tentacles Kong battles and makes a snack of. The creatures keep the rather elemental story popping; we never know what we're going to see next.

Peter Travers at Rolling Stone brings his trademark excitement to his review when he writes:

What lifts Kong: Skull Island from the swamp of clichés is the action. Every kind of creature – from giant lizards and spiders to gargantuan water buffalo – steps up for a go at the ape. Visual effects supervisors Stephen Rosenbaum and Jeff White do themselves proud, and the big guy himself is a wonder, seemingly always ready for his close-up. He's also the real hero of the piece, the one who's protecting the island from these prehistoric weapons of mass destruction. The effects are way cool and thunderously exciting. And really, what else do you need to know? Grab your popcorn and strap in for the ride.

Scott Mendelson chimes in with more praise from Forbes as he writes:

Kong: Skull Island is high-quality pulp fiction. The picture is a briskly paced and character-driven adventure that just happens to be a big-budget monster mash and part of a would-be cinematic universe. The film has a game cast amid stunning visuals and gorgeous cinematic sights. It may not be the eighth wonder of the world, but this King Kong revamp is often quite beautiful.

Kong Skull Island

Alex Welch at IGN throws compliments at director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (and his cinematographer) for his style:

From the moment that one of the helicopter's pilots falls out of the window, directly into Kong's mouth, before Vogt-Roberts then immediately cuts to a shot of someone taking a bite out of a peanut butter sandwich, it becomes clear that Skull Island isn't going to be afraid to take stylistic risks. Aesthetically, cinematographer Larry Fong (Batman v Superman) is borrowing most heavily from Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, but the editing, story, and action of the actual film feels more in line with the work of filmmakers like Edgar Wright and Guillermo del Toro, with a blood-pumping 1970s rock soundtrack to boot.

Brian Formo at Collider interjects some dissension as he praises the visuals, but otherwise was underwhelmed by the movie:

Ultimately, the focus on CGI monster attacks pushes the characters too far into the corners of the story. And Kong's alone time only features monster battles, so there's no extra heft afforded to the King. So even though Skull Island features some truly breathtaking moments that incorporate the elements that everyone loved in Godzilla—the tense, still and smoky seconds where an unseen monster lurks (cinematographer Larry Fong deserves a shout-out; as does a particular ingenious use of a malfunctioning camera flash)—it feels like a movie that was made in a focus group chemist lab and never solidifies an identity.

Kyle Anderson at Nerdist had a raucously good time:

Kong Skull Island is a throwback to a kind of raucous monster adventure that were all the rage in the late-'60s and '70s. It's fast-paced and full of in-your-face effects sequences, and above all it never takes itself too seriously, which is a good thing when dealing with monsters the size of a building.

The action and the way it's shot are really what stood out to me, as it begins to feel like a '70s comic book, in the best way. Stuff happens for the sake of badass-ness and certain camera moves feel totally in service of a damn cool shot, which following the impressive but often po-faced Godzilla feels like a breath of fresh air.

Mike Ryan at Uproxx really enjoyed himself too, but wished the movie was even more crazy:

My biggest complaint about Kong: Skull Island is that it isn't even more ridiculous. Just when you start to think it's going there, it pulls in the reins for whatever reason.

Regardless, again, Kong: Skull Island is still a hoot. It was a movie that was not at all on my radar as something I was dying to see and yet I had way too much fun watching it. I just wished it had embraced its craziness just a little bit more. (But, yes, there's still plenty of crazy to go around.)


Right now, Kong: Skull Island is sitting pretty with 81% at Rotten Tomatoes, and that's pretty damn good. What's great about Kong: Skull Island is that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts wasn't afraid to do something completely different with Kong than the previous remakes attempted. It's a monster movie through and through, without the romantic subplot we've come to associate with this character. Even the beautiful shots in the movie are another of the non-stop action and monstrous entertainment that this new king-sized Kong delivers.

If you haven't read my full review yet, please check it out, and go out of your way to give Kong: Skull Island a chance this weekend. It's a monster movie that doesn't hide the reason you're sitting in the theater to begin with.