KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Directed by: – Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Produced by: – Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Alex Garcia
Starring: – Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly
Runtime: – 118 minutes (1hr 58mins)
We Don’t Belong Here
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s success has created a dangerous precedent in the world of cinema. Studios are now trying to create shared universes for characters they own or have the rights to and many are failing in spectacular fashion like Sony’s now abandoned Amazing Spider-Man series and the DC expanded universe of films which have not set the world alight. Legendary Pictures is now the latest competitor in the ring as its currently trying to concoct a MonsterVerse around famous movie monsters like Godzilla which was recently rebooted in 2014 and the film we are talking about today Kong: Skull Island, both of which will act as the launch pad to this new shared universe the same way Robert Downey Jr. ‘s Iron Man films did with Marvel Studios.
King Kong has been a staple of cinema history. Since his debut in 1933, Kong has made his mark on popular culture and has had several spin-offs, remakes which, includes the Peter Jackson’s 2005 epic that was a critical and financial success. It was only a matter of time before the King was resurrected to cause havoc on silver screen once again.
Abandoning the source material, Kong: Skull Island is a reimaging of Kong Lore as the infamous Skull Island is now discovered in a 1973 America where the US military begins to formally withdraw their troops form Vietnam. This time round this reboot doesn’t follow a maniacal director and his obscure cast but a struggling government organization known as Monarch, who gets wind of satellite photos that have uncovered the uncharted Skull Island, a location that is very inaccessible and hidden from humanity due to the stormy clouds that surround it.
Monarch workers William Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Jason Mitchell) quickly assemble a team to explore the island and chart what life forms reside there under the disguise of a geological team conducting a survey of the landscape. The team in question has War Photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), former SAS Captain/expert tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and the Sky Devils helicopter squadron, led by one Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). As the team arrives on the island they come face to face with King Kong who decimates a good chunk of the infantry and choppers that arrive on the island. Upon surviving an early skirmish with the leviathan the team are about to realize that he is not the only threat they are about to face.
Kong boasts an impressively talented ensemble of performers that includes the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Shea Hawkins and many more under the direction of indie darling Jordan Vogt-Roberts whose resume includes the well received The Kings of Summer. This movie has all the required pieces to make a classic monster movie that we could be talking about for ages.
- Going into this movie, you will immediately recognize that the movie is oozing with a lot of style. Thanks to the movie setting and time period, the movie takes obvious visual cues from the 70s and presents itself in a fashion that is homage to popular movies based around the Vietnam War like Apocalypse Now with its colour palette and aesthetics. It even features some period appropriate songs like Jorge Ben’s Brother, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and the Hollies Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress) along with an original score that features some 70s psychedelic guitars that successfully transports the audience to a 1970s America.
- I really enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson’s turn as the Lt. Col. Packard. Unlike a lot of the character that are featured in this movie he gets a fair bit of development as the film depicts him as a man who is only alive when its war time and is thrilled by the hunt to kill Kong and burn his home down after he took out a lot of his men which is strong parallel to Captain Ahab’s battle against Moby Dick. Watching his slow descent to villainy was one of the most interesting titbits of the movie although it almost veers into the line of implausibility, Samuel L. Jackson brings in his usual charms and mannerism to still make his character an enjoyable one to watch.
- John C. Reilly steals the show as Hank Marlow, a World War II airman who’s been trapped on the island for 28 years. He provides the movie with a lot of levity and his surprisingly has the most depth compared to the other characters that feature in this film thanks to the fact the movie uses a bit of its time to properly explain his back story and at times acts as the audiences eye when he wants to understand what is happening in the 70s.
- The best part of the movie is King Kong and the various monsters he battles in the movie. This is the biggest we have ever seen the titular character as he stands at a staggering 104 feet. He no longer mimics the movement of an ape as he prefers to stand up right and move like a man but still agile like a simian when he engages in combat. He truly looks awesome when he swats down helicopters, crushes or devours humans, tears a giant octopus apart for his meal or manhandles other beasts. The other monsters that inhabit the island are also huge and appealing to look at for the most part. But the most frightening one are the Skullcrawlers –Giant , bipedal lizards with skulls for a head who eliminated most of Kong’s species and are also willing to eat all the humans that are on the island given the chance. The movie is truly at its best when these creatures on screen battling Kong and or the humans which diminishes a lot of the movies shortcomings.
- Though I enjoyed the fact the movie didn’t take a slow-burn approach of its 2014 counter part Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island unfortunately becomes a victim of its own frenetic pacing. While Reilly and Jackson’s character were given room to shine, the movie does not take its time to develop the other characters and they become two-dimensional archetypes that are extremely forgettable as a result. Despite the admirable performances from the whole cast I feel that the movie missed out on the opportunity to reach classic status. No matter how big or awesome the monster in a movie is, he is only as good as his supporting cast allows him to be. Some of the best monster movies in cinema history like Jaws and Jurassic Park for example understood this principle and the movies are engrained into our memories because of that. Considering the amount of talent Vogt-Roberts has on display they ultimately end up being surplus to Kong’s exploits. Tom Hiddleston’s character is just a dude that tough and quiet with good hair, Brie Larson character literally adds nothing to the film and is just there to look pretty and take pictures, John Goodman’s Randa is just a crazy looking visionary . It’s a massive shame that the script didn’t give the actors and actresses room to bring home a memorable performance.
- While the Visual effects are impressive for the most part, there are some moments where it doesn’t exactly mesh well with the rest of the film and you can easily tell that these sequences were filmed in a green room. This particular issue was particularly prevalent in the scenes where Brie Larson’s character was interacting with Kong.
Kong: Skull Island is a conceptually brilliant monster movie that fails to reach up to its lofty expectations due to its inability to utilize its amazing cast, its undeveloped characters and some odd visual blemishes that hurt the overall experience. Despite these flaws, Kong is still King thanks to an intriguing Vietnam-style backdrop, amazing action sequences with the Gorilla and some cool monster designs that scream B-movie goodness.
RATING: – WATCH AT A DISCOUNTED PRICE