Movie Review: ‘Kong: Skull Island
For 84 years King Kong has held a special place in the hearts of moviegoers. Upon further inspection it’s a classic that holds up surprisingly well. King Kong was one of the first blockbusters of its kind, and laid the groundwork for special effects in movies. Numerous incarnations of Kong have come and gone throughout the years.
There was the bonkers crossover King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962. The Dino De Laurentiis 1976 reimagining where make-up and special effects wizard Rick Baker played Kong in a giant ape suit. It was the passion project for Peter Jackson in 2005 where a juggling Naomi Watts charmed the giant primate. Not to mention the countless Kong ripoffs (see Queen Kong, King of Kong Island). Now we have the spectacular Kong: Skull Island directed by rookie filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) bringing “The Eighth Wonder of the World” back to his monster movie roots.
Set in the fall out of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s Skull Island isn’t short on subtlety. Vogt-Roberts all but throws its audience into a movie almost too reverent to Apocalypse Now. Cue the jungle helicopter camerawork, and 70’s soundtrack. Non-subtly can be forgiven since this is a monster movie, but the director might want to tone down the Coppola inspired influences
We are introduced to John Goodman’s character Bill Randa where he’s recruiting an expedition to find an uncharted island in the South Pacific known as “Skull Island”. He finds the help of former British Special Forces Captain James Conrad, (“Heart of Darkness” anyone? I told you its Apocalypse Now references weren’t subtle), who’s played by the very hunky Tom Hiddleston. Randa also recruits an American military escort to the island lead by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), and war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) tags along for the ride.
When the choppers break inside the permanent storm that encloses Skull Island bombs start to get dropped that were developed by seismologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), in an attempt to prove his theory stating that the ground on the island is hollow beneath the surface. Finally Kong Kong’s dramatic reveal, and he’s not too happy with the island’s new visitors. He quickly sends the choppers flying, and the balls-to-the-wall action scenes never let up.
The humongous size of Kong adds to the lunacy of its premise, and might add to the experience of the awe of what it was like to first lay eyes on Kong when he was first introduced to audiences in 1933. It’s no surprise to learn that the lumbering gorilla is a misunderstood giant when we are introduced to WWII pilot Hank Marrow (a scene stealing John C. Reilly), who’s been living on the island since the 1942 when his plane crash-landed. Giving the low down on Kong to James and Mason he says in his very Looney Tunes delivery that Kong protects the local natives from the monsters that inhabit the island – most notoriously the Skullcrawlers that dwell in the ground. With a pulpy back-story like that how can one resist?
Clunky dialoged, and disposable characters aside Skull Island puts on one Hell of a show. We came here for the giant gorilla after all not for memorable character development. The film is way more fun than the abysmal reboot of Godzilla, and knows the type of movie that it’s going for. The action scenes in it are thrilling, and it’s fun to see the iconic beats from the original thrown in. Among these being the giant wall the local natives have built, and yes Brie Larson does get to have her Faye Wray moment in the giant palm of Kong among the references to the original. The final climatic fight scene between Kong and the Skullcrawler – itself worthy of a Ray Harryhausen movie – more than tops the Kong Vs. Dinosaur fight from Jackson’s version.
Kong: Skull Island more than delivers the monster movie goods, and kicks open the door for the Warner Bros MonsterVerse universe, which will put him up against Japanese’s pride and joy Godzilla. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is currently in production for a 2019 release date so we’ll get more of our Kong opponent soon enough. Isn’t this what movie special effects were made for after all? Bring them on!
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