FILM REVIEW: Kong – Skull Island
Kong: Skull Island, the latest incarnation of the classic character from Legendary in the same vein as 2014’s Godzilla, and in fact paving the way for an eventual rematch between the two characters. Because they share the same world some people have gone out of their way to dub this it ‘The Monsterverse’, which makes sense as the second Godzilla film is also supposed to bring back more of Toho’s iconic monsters. Some audiences have complained it is trying to copy what Marvel have done with the MCU, but in this case, these creatures have crossed over and ‘shared a universe’ already long before Marvel started up the MCU so I think that’s a bit of an unfair complaint. As far as Kong: Skull Island goes, there are references to Godzilla here and there but they’re subtle and don’t distract you from losing yourself from what’s in front of you.
First off, if you’re going into this film expecting yet another remake of the original 1933 story just set in a new time period, you’re going to be disappointed. The story here is not the iconic Kong story but something different entirely. This time around we’re in the 1970’s; the Vietnam War is coming to a close and a squad of soldiers has one more mission before going home. This turns out to be travelling to a newly discovered island to assist the scientists going to study it. As you can guess, things go downhill from there. It’s a pretty standard monster movie plot line and nothing too complicated. This is both a positive and negative in my opinion. As it is a film about people trapped on an island full of monsters I’m not expecting Shakespeare, but it’s 2017 and there’s only so many ways you can tell the same story so I can’t be too critical of the movies overly simplistic plot.
In reality despite being about Kong this is really a Vietnam movie as well as a monster movie, and it plays with a lot of elements from both genres. One of my favourite tropes that they use is the soundtrack. Often times, the music is actually being played in-film by the characters instead of just over what’s going on and I thought that was a neat addition. Full of late 60’s-early 70’s rock. Because what’s a Vietnam-era movie without a little Credence Clearwater Revival. There are also nods to not only the tie-in universe, as I said above, but also homages to the other versions of Kong as well. Arguably one of the largest are the ‘Skull Crawlers’, which are essentially bigger, meaner versions of the Two-Legged Lizard from the 1933 film.
Let’s talk about the characters. Now in both the story and the characters I found myself making a comparison between this film and another one that I wasn’t really expecting. In a lot of ways, this movie has a lot of similarities with the first Predator. Soldiers in a hostile jungle trying to find their way out, a group that has obviously been together a long time and knows one another well. One of the key complaints I’ve seen in other reviews is the characters are one note and don’t have too much depth. I didn’t find most of the characters that bad. You actually spend quite a lot of time with the soldiers and you do get a sense of who they are and you feel for them. Of any of the characters I would have wanted to spend more time with, it was actually the characters played by Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson, but it was a fairly large cast so sometimes that’s just how it goes. One character that I was concerned about going in was the one played by John C. Reilly, as the trailers made him seem really goofy but actually his character was incredibly interesting and actually quite affecting in parts.
Finally, let’s talk about the big guy himself. Kong looks amazing, brought to life via motion capture and done by Industrial Light and Magic. He harkens back to the original in his more upright form and he definitely and most assuredly more intimidating in this more modern depiction of the character. He is still very gorilla-like in his movements, but there is a sense that he has a mind and an intelligence to his character unlike anything we’ve seen from him thus far. He’s also very resourceful, and his fighting style varies depending on what he’s fighting and what’s on hand. He’s got a personality, but mostly he doesn’t really want anything to do with the people, either those on the island or those that show up. As to the island he inhabits, it’s stunning in it’s aesthetics. There were times when they were flying over that I almost expected the Jurassic Park theme to start playing. It’s also populated by a variety of creatures with some really inventive designs and really adds to the other-worldliness and ‘lost’ nature of it all. As far as look goes, that are also some stylistic elements that are done in some scenes that I found really interesting and gave the film a really cool look without losing the feel or the time period by being overly slick. Even the colours are a little desaturated to be less modern-looking.
Overall I enjoyed this film and I’m sure most of you will enjoy it too. Just try not to have your expectations too high and you will have a blast. Kong: Skull Island is the latest film to be a poster child for popcorn films. Don’t let that fool you too much it’s extremely well directed with great action and suspense and is one of the best monster movies you’ll have seen in the last few years.