Kong: Skull Island (2017)11:30 AM
Awaken the King.
This review contains SpoilersKong: Skull Island is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) and stars Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers, The Night Manager), Brie Larson (Room, 21 Jump Street), Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained), John C. Reilly (Step Brothers, Wreck-It Ralph) and John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Monsters Inc). "A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden". The second instalment in the monster-verse after 2014's Godzilla - will Kong regain his King status?
When this film was first announced, I was very excited. I couldn’t wait for a traditional monster movie and I remember seeing parts of the previous King Kong films as a kid and enjoying them. I also really liked Jurassic World a couple of years ago and thought this would fall under a similar nostalgia-filled category. Then the first trailers and posters were released and I just wasn’t keen – the writing seemed cheesy, cliché and unoriginal and the film just seemed a little meh. I am pleased to announce that I was mostly wrong in my worries for this film as Kong: Skull Island is a highly enjoyable watch with terrific action, great CGI and is the perfect popcorn movie.
However, I was partly right to be worried about the film being quite generic and unoriginal – the story was nothing special. A group of people go Skull Island, they discover Kong, get split up and want to escape. I think my little summary sounds better than the story of the actual film. I think the story suffered as it was pretty simple but for some reason, it felt much more complex. I don’t know whether that was because we were watching two different groups basically go through the same (but different) scenarios – lost on an island full of monsters. The simple story isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I just hoped it would actually have been more complex and had more to it – a level that the post credit scene definitely added (more on that later). The characters were also quite stupid with their logic – some have compared Kong to a horror film – it definitely has characters as smart as the ones in horror films.
Another thing that was quite mediocre about the film was the acting – it wasn’t bad but it just wasn’t great either. I think this is mainly down to the film being overcrowded with characters that nobody really got enough time to standout. Tom Hiddleston is supposedly the lead but I would definitely say this film is an ensemble with no real lead. The characters are barely developed and that honestly doesn’t matter as most of them are killed off – there are so many red shirts in this film. Hiddleston does a nice job, I feel he could have been a little more charismatic and likeable though. Brie Larson is the next award winner to be put in front of mainstream audiences after Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts and sadly she isn’t given much to work with. Her character comes off well in the post credit scene but for the most part of the main film, she is a flimsy, one dimensional token female character that the rest of the characters just have to keep pointing out. Larson does her best with what she is given but this type of role definitely isn’t what I was hoping for when I heard she was going to be in this movie. I say it every time he’s in a film these days – Samuel L Jackson just needs to stop playing the same character and starring in films for the pay-check. I found his character irritating and it annoyed me even more that it was once again the same type of character Jackson always plays. The rest of the cast are good enough – nobody is terrible but I suppose no one is really that great either.
It all sounds very negative right now doesn’t it? Well that’s about to change as one area that Kong: Skull Island definitely excels in is the action – this film is packed full of it and is entertaining, exhilarating and fast-paced. The two main fights involving Kong are both very exciting and gripping. The one towards the beginning involving the helicopters was well executed – the background music was a great choice and it made the whole sequence feel even better (it turned the excitement up a notch). The final fight with Kong against the big ‘Skull crawler’ is also very enjoyable to watch – it’s quite intense and could easily have felt cheap, cheesy and tacky if it wasn’t handled the way it was. Even though there wasn’t as many similarities to Jurassic World as I first thought, one thing they had in common was being (some would say unnecessarily) brutal with their killings – a man is literally torn apart at one point and another has a branch shoved down his throat. These scenes aren’t too graphic which is probably why the film still passed for a 12A but some pretty strong violence is hinted at. There are also some memorable action sequences which I believe were done very well – one of these is where the camera is flashing inside the skull crawler. I thought tension was built very well in this scene and everything was on point – making the climax worth it and pretty terrifying. Another is when Hiddleston finally gets to show off some action skills putting on the gas mask and fighting the creatures within a green smoke. I thought this was another great example of a unique and notable moment within the film. I would still say the film is family friendly as a whole – the moments of tension are quite brief.
Hopefully Kong: Skull Island will be remembered for its outstanding visual effects when it comes to awards season 2018. I thought Kong was very well realized – the film did an excellent job of making us empathize with him – he may be the monster at the beginning but he was definitely the protagonist towards the end. Kong wasn’t the only creature that was impressive to look at, every single fantastical being in this film was incredibly well done. After my first viewing, I came out saying that this film fitted the title of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ than that film did as the beasts in Skull Island were far more fantastic and terrific to look at. The world building within the film was quite impressive – every corner the characters went around was a different magnificent creature waiting for them. Other than the CGI, the film was visually impressive with its cinematography – I thought the film was beautifully shot and some of the camera choices were very creative. I was actually taken aback by how stylistic Kong: Skull Island was. There were many unique, original and inventive camera angles and stylistic choices. For instance, an example of one I picked up on was Preston Packard’s (Jackson) transformation from a man to a monster. It is clear from the beginning of the film that Preston has quite radical and extreme views – he’s just one of those types of people. When we first encounter Kong, there are wide shots where it’s just Kong’s silhouette with an orange backdrop as he on looks the humans approaching him – Kong is the monster. However, at the end of the film, the same techniques are used with Preston – a silhouette, wide shot and orange backdrop as he on looks Kong approaching him – Preston has become the monster. I thought this was very clever. The film had great match cutting throughout which made the film inventive constantly – one of my favourites was the cut between a man falling into Kong’s mouth and someone biting into a sandwich.
Major spoilers ahead!
So, if you had the patience to wait for the longest credits ever to finish, you will have witnessed a subtle yet very effective post-credit scene. It is revealed that Larson and Hiddleston have been recruited by MONARCH but must not tell anybody about the island or what happened on it. I actually think this elevates the whole film because now there are some actual stakes – the characters are unable to tell anybody about what they went through or the dangers that lurk in the world. The reveal about Godzilla was obvious but exciting – even though there is another film to go until its Kong Vs Godzilla, after this one, I can safely say I’m pretty excited.
Kong: Skull Island is the perfect popcorn blockbuster – it might lack in its script, story and character development but it excels in its action and visual effects. The acting is somewhere in the middle of those – it’s by no means bad but definitely not outstanding. Kong: Skull Island caught me off guard by being more stylish than expected – the soundtrack definitely helped but they kind of dropped that for the second half. Entertaining, thrilling, sometimes original, exciting – what more could you want? (there's a reason I saw this twice).