Kong: Skull Island- A Review

Posted: 04/26/2017 in Uncategorized

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I am not a monster movie fan. I believe for the most part, such fare has been and continues to be overdone. Yet, on a date night gamble with my wife, I was pleased to discover some old monsters have quite a bit of life left to them. Kong- Skull Island was a welcome surprise making its 2 hour running time feel like far less time spent in a theater.

I had heard good things about said film, but I have heard all kinds of good things about numerous monster films, including “Cloverfield” which I absolutely didn’t like. Kong however takes a different tact from established depictions. The frequent referral to him as a god is telling. The reference to him as benevolently protective however was downright refreshing.

What stands out about this film is that it was well crafted. Opening with a dog fight near the end of World War II, we encounter two men whose planes crash land on an island. As they present opposite sides, their immediate action upon escaping their planes is to endeavor to kill one another. Hank Marlow fires the first shot, but Gunpei Ikari manages to get the upper hand. The battle is disrupted with the introduction of Kong. This occurs in the opening moments and sets the tone for the film. Kong is only hinted at from an eye view. This works terrifically so that when he is shown in his imposing profile, there is due oomph.

The story moves ahead to 1973, at the end of the Vietnam War. We encounter numerous players, including Sam Jackson’s Lt. Colonel Preston Packard who clearly isn’t ready to go home. While Jackson is seemingly in almost every motion picture in recent memory, some seem to forget he is actually very good. With a few actions and even fewer words, we learn that war is not something Packard is ready to let go. His joy at accepting a mission of any kind ably illustrates this. We are introduced to two men who head the mission, an official for a shadowy company known as Monarch- Bill Randa (John Goodman) and geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins). Randa has insider knowledge which he neglects to share. Randa chooses instead to refer to the trip strictly as an  expedition when he hires Packard’s team “Sky Devils” and tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) a former major in the British army. Rounding out the crew is Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a photojournalist and pacifist who suspects the “island mapping” mission has a deeper purpose. Other people join the group which includes Jian Tian as biologist San Lin.

We learn that “Skull Island” is protected by a series of perpetual storm fronts which adds to the mystique of the location. I want to add that this is unquestionably a big screen move in every sense. The helicopters charging through the storm was a great visual -as was their pushing through to what initially appears as an island paradise. The appearance of Kong however is mythic. It might very well be the best big screen depiction of him thus far. The focus is on the details, from his amazing size to the depth of the rendering of his eyes. His body is a litany of scars and wounds but his presentation is majestic. The notion of his being a god and king to his people seems understandable.

The destruction he wreaks initially and throughout the film is five star action. The casualties incurred inform the goal and singular purpose of Packard but one does not require the repeated indications from characters to convince the viewer that anything Kong does is strictly defensive. To take a retaliatory tact against him is like cursing the wind or a storm. The battle is fought on two fronts via the military as expected and a prehistoric species known as “Skull Crawlers”. The rendering of said creatures is formidable. Their movement, reactions and vicious interactions with humans are unsettling as hell and as such entertaining as hell.

The introduction of an older Marlow played by superior character actor John C. Riley simply kills. His performance brings in due levity with a great degree of heart. He is a man who was dealt a crappy hand but somehow rose above it, embracing an enemy and accepting the villagers Kong protects as his own.  Every scene he is in has due resonance.

Brie Larson presents a character who is likable and assertive. Her interactions with the villagers provide the films strongest emotional moment. She is certainly big screen ready and I very much look forward to her imminent Marvel role. Regarding Tom Hiddleston, while he is assuredly a capable actor, he brings nothing new to his role. He is a man of action but not much depth despite the promise offered in earlier scenes. Thankfully we are spared a romantic angle between Conrad and Weaver as there is no chemistry between the two. The star of said film, as it should be, is Kong. Via exceptional CGI and superior film making – Kong is brought to new life. A cool post credit sequence seals the deal and allows for the notion of an expanding universe. Kong Skull Island is simply outstanding and well worth your time.

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