KONG – SKULL ISLAND [Face-Off Review]: Down with the King!
GEEK – The King is back, and he’s bigger than ever! Well, in physical size that is. Kong: Skull Island brings us the return of cinema’s most iconic ape in a way that we really haven’t seen before. In this latest outing the narrative of the original 1933 King Kong film, that was later remade in 1973 and then in 2005, is ditched for a Jurassic Park-meets-Apocalypse Now Vietnam-era survival horror adventure story.
This time, company man Bill Randa (John Goodman) and scientist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) piggyback on a geological expedition of the island representing Monarch, a company that specializes in seeking out massive unidentified terrestrial organisms with the help of a US Army escort led by Preston Packard (Nick Fury’s Samuel L. Jackson), James Conrad – a tracker played by Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and Mason Weaver–a wartime photographer Brie Larsen (a future Carol Danvers). Their expedition expectedly goes horribly wrong immediately and most of the survivors fight to get off the island, while a select few decide they want to destroy Kong. It’s a simple enough premise, but leaves a lot of room for some pretty satisfying monster encounters.
If 2014’s Godzilla was supposed to be a slow orchestrated build that led to a symphonic climax, Kong: Skull Island is its big budget, spiritual B-movie, rock n’ roll brother. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts isn’t afraid to immediately lay on some Sam Raimi-esque camp with his approach to visually telling the story. The way some of the monster attack sequences play out have a entertaining kinetic appeal to them. The stylization of the film also heavily contrasts modern day blockbuster sensibilities. The colors are bright and vivid and the diegetic music adds some personality to the characters.
The song choices are pretty much run of the mill 70s, Vietnam War standards, but they pepper the movie with bursts of energy. The film really earns the bulk of its charm in its portrayal of the larger than life creature characters. Not only does the action take place in stable wide shots with fewer cuts than normal, but Vogt-Roberts’ aesthetic choices on where to plant the camera make for some thrilling visual beats. If only that inclination to go for the more creative choice was applied to the main characters themselves, but I’ll let the Divine One himself tell you about that…
3.5/5 Skulls Bibles.
NERD – Thanks to “Brother” Myke for taking care of all the important story aspects of the film, so now we can really grab a hold of this one and rip into it like Kong chewing down on his calamari dinner. You look at the cast of this movie with the pop culture staple of Hiddleston (Thor),veteran Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane), a frickin’ Oscar winner in Larson (Room) AND the powerhouse that is Jackson (Pulp Fiction) and it is within reason to expect some damn great performances.
As expected, there was no lack of talent from this group, but the problem is: where was the clay for these people to mold a solid character out of?! Goodman’s performance is reminiscent to what he did in Cloverfield, creating a character with a strange and quietly enigmatic, haunted soul, driven to get to the island; but after we get there, is terribly lost in the chaos and mystery of the action around him. The fact that his character should be going out of his mind with ecstatic enthusiasm–for finally getting to the destination he has been spending his life trying to land on–is barely even touched on.
Larson, it seems, was brought on to be the requisite female lead in a Kong movie, as she spends most of the film staring in awe at every single thing on the island. She’s not given much of a voice; instead, she is made to join Hiddleston at the hip and follow where he goes. While she gets more to do by the 3rd act, the script just eliminates the ambitious journalist and tries to turn her into Lara Croft. I’m trying to figure out what Hiddleston is doing in this film, considering he just came from his outstanding job on The Night Manager. He just doesn’t bring any more weight to the role than some actor they could’ve got from the CW Network. It’s almost all action and no real character development.
With Jackson, his focus on having blinders on (in wanting to take out Kong–and that nothing else matters), not only lacks practicality but foolishness as revealed later. That leaves us with one Hank Marlow (Reily), the only full rounded character as well as the voice of reason. He makes you laugh so much but also adds a lot of heart win his desire to get back to the America he hasn’t seen in decades.
Without giving away too much, the island is full of many dangerous, larger-than-life creatures. The constant danger makes for great pacing as you never get too relaxed, knowing that something could come out of the jungle at any time. The special effects not only for Kong but for everything in the film are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The fact that you can look at these creatures and see every scale, hair follicle, and drop of drool coming of their teeth is nothing short of wonderful joy for us and terror for those on the screen.
Then, lest we not forget that this is an animal kingdom and Kong has to defend his rule of the island. Yup! There are many instances of intense fights between these super-sized beasts. All the love that you had as a kid watching monster movies comes back in a huge fist-cleching rush that makes you shout “Get’em Kong!” Although I’m bummed that so many of the talented actors in a film better suited for a summer popcorn release, I can’t deny that the overall rollercoaster ride of Skull Island that is not be missed on the big screen.
4/5 Skull Bibles.