‘Kong’ magnifies ‘monsterverse’ franchise

By Grant Dillard, Contributing writer

Kong: Skull Island takes place in 1973, shortly after the Vietnam War. Scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman) organizes a team of soldiers and scientists to head out to a mysterious island known as Skull Island. Upon arriving, the team comes across the giant ape known as Kong, who quickly dispatches them. The surviving members of the team must then find a way to get off the island safely, while learning more about the island and Kong himself.

One of the impressive things about “Kong: Skull Island” is how it manages to stay a good movie while also foreshadowing what’s to come in the “Monsterverse.” Films like “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Independence Day: Resurgence” are examples of films that mainly focus on laying the groundwork for a franchise instead of being good films on their own. “Kong: Skull Island” doesn’t fall into that trap. The film does have references to 2014’s “Godzilla,” but they don’t feel forced or tacked on. They fit naturally into the story.  This is the best way to foreshadow future films, as it doesn’t overshadow the main story.

“Kong: Skull Island” also has quite a cast of characters. While not all of them are memorable, some of the standouts are very entertaining and fun to watch. Bill Randa has the most interesting backstory, wanting to go to Skull Island so he can prove monsters exist since he was involved in a shipwreck back in 1954, which moviegoers will recognize from “Godzilla.”

Another standout is Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), an army captain who won’t leave the island until Kong is killed to avenge the soldiers who died at the hands of the giant ape. His determination to end Kong’s life makes him very engaging.

The last standout is Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who does more than provide many of the film’s comedic moments. He also explains to the team, as well as the audience, that Skull Island is full of lizard-type creatures known as Skullcrawlers, and Kong protects the island by fighting off these creatures.

Unfortunately, “Kong: Skull Island” suffers from a major issue that “Godzilla” has: boring main leads. The two main characters, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), aren’t very interesting and are very bland compared to the supporting cast. The actors are decent as their characters, but nothing really stands out about them or makes them memorable. At best, they’re passable.

Despite bland lead characters, “Kong: Skull Island” is a fun monster movie and gives audiences a look at the excitement that’s to come for future movies in the “Monsterverse.” If the cinematic universe keeps making movies as good as this, there’s a chance it will go down in history as one of the best film franchises of all time.