Kong: Skull Island review
It’s safe to say that out of the many iconic moments in cinema (Dorothy discovering herself in a world of Technicolor in Wizard of Oz, Charles Foster Kane saying “Rosebud” before his death in Citizen Kane and the entire finale of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), many people can recall the image of a giant gorilla attacking planes off of the Empire State Building in King Kong. Though it may sound like something out of a B movie, people tend to forget that King Kong was once the true king of the world with some of the most impressive special effects of the time. I highly recommend the documentaries about the making of the 1933 film.
Aside from a couple of sequels and remakes in 1976 and 2005, there hasn’t been more exploration of the world Kong lives in. Sure, we know he’s a large ape, but the island that he called home had dinosaurs, giant spiders, and various monsters. That itself is a goldmine for more fantasy-like exploration. With the popularity of the American remake of Godzilla, it made sense that Warner Brothers would want to revive the eighth wonder of the world. The world is given more exploration in Kong: Skull Island.
In 1973, government scientist William Randa (played by John Goodman) gets approval to lead an expedition to an uncharted island that had been blocked by bad weather. He hires a military group in Saigon called the Sky Devils, a former Vietnam helicopter squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson) for escort. He also hires a former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad (played by Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (played by Brie Larson). All together in a helicopter convey, they make it through the island, but are quickly brought down by a gorilla standing over a hundred feet.
The survivors are split into two group with both planning on heading north to the rendezvous point where there only hope for rescue is in three days. While Randa, Packard, and some of the solders start searching for fellow crew, Conrad, Weaver and the rest of the survivors are found by a tribe of Iwi natives, but are assured by a WWII pilot whose been stuck there for thirty years Hank Marlow (played by John C. Reilly) that they are friendly. It’s discovered that Kong is worshiped as a god to protect them from the larger lizard creatures on the island. Along with those, giant spiders, and King Kong himself, its race against time to see who can make it.
For a spinoff about King Kong, my expectations were low. The good news is that Kong: Skull Island happens to be good monster movie. Good, but not great. Half of that has to do with the casting. While John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson have a lot of good scenes (including a subtle Jurassic Park reference), neither Tom Hiddleston nor Brie Larson are that interesting. Both actors are trying, but the script simply makes their characters empty shells of leading men and women. But lets face it, the real star of the movie happens to be Kong. Unlike Godzilla, which took a lot of time away from the monster, here we get more of the giant ape and him fighting the various creatures of Skull Island. I love his design and of how more animalistic his personality is, even more so then the 2005 remake.
Though the characters aren’t strong, what makes up for it is the atmosphere and tome. It’s clear that a lot of influence was taken from Apocalypse Now, Jurassic Park and of course King Kong. It all meshes into a beautiful looking picture that fits right alongside the multiple Vietnam war movies. I’m not sure who was responsible for the cinematography, but they deserve a lot of accolades.
I’ll give this four Kongs out of five. While I can’t see thing alongside the original King Kong in a state of icon-like phrase, it’s a fun popcorn monster movie. It gives you what you want fast and manages to keep the tone going. I have to give this a lot of credit for running under two hours. With a lot of blockbusters going well over that, it’s nice to see a movie that knows how long it needs to be. As long as you can accept this a blockbuster, then I’m sure you’ll have some fun. Get to the theaters and see if this roars some excitement into you.