Kong: Skull Island
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One of cinema’s classic titans returns to the big screen in Kong: Skull Island starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly. Is this a monster movies fans of the the iconic ape have been waiting for, or is this another disappointment of Godzilla proportion?
In the world of movie monsters, there are none more iconic and beloved than Godzilla and King Kong. Both have stood the test of time because not only are they bad ass, but as characters, they can be thrown into such a wide array of movie genres from cheesy classic b-movie goodness to big-budget action blockbusters. As a kid, I grew up watching them on Saturday afternoons once morning cartoons ended. I had the toys and often pretended I was them as I stomped around my back yard and destroyed buildings made from LEGO. I also can’t tell you how many quarters I pumped into the arcade game Rampage.
I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely disappointed by Godzilla that came out a few years ago. It was so extremely boring and convoluted. It was nothing more than a crappy disaster flick. Also, for a 2-hour movie, Godzilla was only in the movie for 11 minutes. When I see a monster movie, I want to see the damn monster.
Well Legendary Pictures must have telepathically read my mind, because Kong: Skull Island absolutely rocked. I wanted to see Kong kicking ass and beating the holy terror out of some monsters and I got it. Everything I wanted to be better with Godzilla was improved with this movie. There is no overblown set up to the movie. There is no long drawn out exposition. It’s just brief intro then travel to the island. It’s the simplicity of the story that makes everything work.
John Goodman plays Bill Randa a scientist whom his colleges think is a crackpot. He wants to go on a mission to Skull Island to chart the island and see what resources are on it. He only gets approval for the expedition in fear of the Russians making the discovery first. Randa needs an experienced tracker, so this is where he enlists the help of Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad. Randa also needs a military escort so this is how Samuel L. Jackson gets into the mix. Jackson plays Preston Packard, a Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the best air cavalry in Vietnam. Now that the war is over, Packard has nothing to do with his life, so he accepts one last mission. Brie Larson plays Mason Weaver, a photojournalist who works for Time Magazine. She tags along because ultimately, she’s looking for a Pulitzer. They all get on a ship, travel to the island, and meet face to face with Kong. The movie perfectly sets everything up and gives an awesome payoff.
And that payoff is Kong himself in all his glory. He was bad ass. Not only was the CGI fantastic. but the action scenes were very well animated and choreographed. Kong rips apart helicopters like they were paper airplanes. He stomps soldiers running away. He beats his chest. His roar shatters ear drums. In simple terms, this is the Kong I’ve wanted for a long time. Now don’t get me wrong, Peter Jackson’s King Kong was great, but deep down, it was more of a love story than anything. And the only really kick ass scene was when Kong battled the T-Rex trio. Kong; Skull Island is action packed the moment you get the pleasure of meeting his royalness.
What I really loved the most of the movie were the visuals. The film is very stylized to look like a comic book come to life. The colors are vibrant and frames of film look like panels in a graphic novel. The movie even slows down on numerous occasions to really show off Kong’s power or the details in the carnage on the scene. I know some will bitch about the overuse of the slowmo, but i liked them as they felt like motion lines in a drawing. It’s the same argument I saw with Zack Snyder’s 300.
Kong and all the creatures looked great. The animators and artists gave Kong a great deal of fury and strength, but also some heart. The key factor is Kong’s eyes. The artists did a fantastic job giving Kong some real emotions which adds to believability to his existence.
I also loved that the movie took place during the Vietnam War era. This allowed for an incredible soundtrack from rock bands like Black Sabbath and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Having the story take place in this era also gave filmmakers the liberty to borrow some cues from other movies during that era, especially Apocalypse Now. The only thing missing from the helicopter assault was “Ride of the Valkyries” over the loud speakers. The movie felt like Sam Jackson was going after his own simian version of Colonel Kurtz. Hell, even the poster looks like Apocalypse Now.
The only real negative of the movie were the human characters. The actors did a great job, but the characters themselves were pretty generic. But that in a way is a positive, because it’s Kong that needs to be the showcase of the film, not Loki and Nick Fury. The one standout of the entire cast was John C. Riley as Hank Marlow, a stranded pilot from World War II. He’s the comic relief of the film. He was a bit over the top at times for my taste, but then again after being stranded 28 years on an island, I’d be a bit bananas as well. See what I did there?
Overall, Kong: Skull Island is a fun monster movie. This is a movie made for fans of the genre. There is very little fluff, but a whole lot of action filled with jaw-dropping sequences. There are some brutal moments in the film that may be a bit scary for younger kids, but the scenes are on par with Jurassic World in terms of gore and carnage. A lot of the brutality was skillfully cut away so it wasn’t so gratuitous. Kong: Skull Island kicks off the 2017 blockbuster season with one of the best Kong movies ever.
I had a lot of fun with Kong: Skull Island. To me, It’s not to the epic scale of Pacific Rim in terms of monster movie bad-ass awesomeness, but it puts 2014’s Godzilla in a headlock, rams its fist down its throat, and breaks its spine. Kong’s CGI looked realistic and intimidating. The action was jaw-dropping and non-stop. And the movie’s colors and cinematography makes the movie feel like you’re watching a comic book come to life. If you are a huge fan of classic monster movies, then Kong: Skull Island is worth checking out.
Make sure you stick around after the credits for a hidden scene that teases the next possible movie.