Kong: Skull Island Review
Let’s face it. I’m not a fan of King Kong, but I do like a good monster movie. I’ve seen the 70’s version which was good, and later King Kong Lives, which was bad and the Peter Jackson remake which was great. I only saw these on TV and cable. Like I said, not much of a fan but with Kong: Skull Island, after seeing the trailer, being a Godzilla fan and knowing what Legendary Pictures is up to, I decided to see it, and all I can say is—It’s awesome!
This little review won’t give away too many spoilers, but I’m still inclined to give the obligatory spoiler alert because you deserve to see and enjoy this film. One good thing about this film is that there’s hardly a dull moment. At the start of the film, set in World War II where an American and Japanese pilot crash on the island, they are greeted by the titular character in his gigantic glory. Hey, you’ve seen him in the trailers anyway, why hide the big guy? It’s unlike Godzilla 2014 where we only see his dorsal fins during the opening sequence when the world superpowers were trying to kill him with ‘nuclear tests.’ One major criticism for Godzilla was that the titular monster was mostly hidden from the audience. Audiences won’t be disappointed with this one.
The characters’ back stories are quickly set up at the beginning which is good. Unlike other Kong films, this one was set in the 70s during the Vietnam War as can be seen by the helicopters used in the trailer. Watching this film, you could say that it’s a mix of Apocalypse Now and Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.
Again, the action won’t disappoint. Less than 30 minutes into the film, old Kong gives it to them, and the whole plot is set up where we join the cast on their journey off Skull Island. Also, unlike other Kong films, the great ape stays on the island. The film again is not much of a remake but a re-imagining and more of a set-up for what’s to come. And boy, there will be much to come.
Since I wasn’t a big fan of Kong, I never did any research on who the cast was. The only thing I was aware of was Tom Hiddleston, much known for playing Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be leading the cast. Him and John Goodman who plays the role as William Randa, leader of the expedition. It was a surprise to see the names of Samuel L. Jackson, Hiddleston’s co-alum in the MCU and lastly, future MCU member Brie Larson, who will be playing Carol Danvers or Captain Marvel, in Marvel’s own female led superhero film.
Tom Hiddleston plays James Conrad, the British mercenary who will be acting as their guide in the uncharted territory. We’ve mentioned what Goodman’s role is while Samuel L. Jackson plays Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard, the leader of the expedition’s military escort and requisite human asshat who wants to capture or kill the great ape. The Vietnam War setting comes into play regarding Jackson’s role, and though most of the time he’s unreasonable, you’ll piece together where he’s coming from. Brie Larson plays Mason Weaver the mission’s photojournalist, to cover or chronicle to the mission and basically plays Kong’s girl. Her relationship with Kong in this film is one of the aspects where the film departs from its predecessors. Then there’s Chinese actress Jing Tin in the role of San Lin, the expedition’s biologist. God, is she pretty. Unfortunately, she’s as pretty as she is useless and more likely, a token Chinese character due to Legendary’s collaboration with Tencent Pictures. But boy, is she pretty, and since Kong is set in the 70s pretty much like a prequel to Godzilla, we may not see her again. Did I mention she’s pretty? Lastly, John C. Reilly plays the American pilot trapped on the island since 1944. The Japanese pilot who has since become his friend died years earlier. He’s the comic relief, the voice of reason and the voice of knowledge in the film.
The Easter Eggs
There are plenty of Easter eggs scattered in the film. Randa’s organization, Monarch was present in Godzilla 2014 quickly confirming the two films’ shared universe. Goodman even mentions the purpose of the nuclear testing in Bikini Atoll. The film also discusses the Hollow Earth Theory that is upheld by Monarch, where Earth’s monsters like Godzilla and the MUTOs originate. This is an homage to the theory of a large habitat within the Earth which goes way back to the original 1954 Godzilla film. It’s also kind of similar to the premise of Pacific Rim or Journey to the Center of the Earth. The best Easter egg of all within the film, if you are a Godzilla fan comes somewhere within the credits themselves and then later at the post-credit scene.
The premise where King Kong fights Godzilla is totally cheesy for this writer, but it happened way back in 1962. The thing about Godzilla is that there are many different versions, of varying heights and minor changes in appearance but one thing that’s always contested is the size ratio between the two monsters. Well, in the 1962 film, King Kong’s was upsized for battle, and that is the same thing they did here. They greatly upsized Kong to perhaps times four. But still, Godzilla 2014 still outsizes Kong. They did say in the film that Kong is still growing though it’s kind of hard to imagine given the size of the skulls of Kong’s parents. How far can Kong grow in 50 years in order to be a match for the giant lizard? Anyway, if you set those thoughts aside and see the film for what it is, you’ll be sure to enjoy yourselves.
The island is home to plenty of oversized monsters such as the unfortunately unseen giant ants, harmless giant bisons, prehistoric-looking birds, a giant long-legged spider, a giant squid for an ape who likes sushi and the main antagonists aside from Jackson’s Packard, the gigantic Skullcrawlers. Kong protects the island’s human population against these exoskeletal reptilian monsters that come from underground vents which proves Randa’s theory of a hollow Earth. Like in previous Kong films, the humans have a giant wall, but unlike previous Kong films, the wall isn’t to keep Kong out but to keep the Skullcrawlers crawling in. Expect great human vs. monster and monster vs. monster battles in this film.
And lastly, about that awesome Easter egg, I read something awesome like this as the credits rolled up.
“Characters Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah are property of Toho Inc.”
That was a WTF moment for this author. Were they really planning to use these monsters in future films? Are we to expect an appearance of Rodan or Mothra in future films? If I’m not mistaken, the giant spider in the film is a reference to the monster Kumonga.
The awesome end-credits scene will tell it all. The screen will remain dark, and the first sentence will seem to mock you for staying. Keep to your seat. If you’re a Godzilla fan, you won’t regret it. Too bad everyone else in the theater left before I did. Yes, everyone missed out but this geek trained by Marvel to stay after credits. Guess everyone knows by now that this technique is to honor everyone involved in making the film so the audience can have a fleeting glance of a name or two and their respective roles in making the film.
Though some critics liken Kong to a B monster movie, it didn’t feel like it at all. Perhaps in the future if there are further cinematic improvements it might be. The film was action-packed and entertaining. It’s a definite departure from previous Kong films considering the film is actually an entertaining elaborate setup. I might get flamed for saying that the only sour note here is probably Tom Hiddleston’s performance. He got ripped in this film, that’s for sure. Better for him once he returns as Loki in Thor Ragnarok but I found his performance a bit lacking or perhaps his character just didn’t have much to do really. But he was awesome in his hack and slash scene in the middle of the film. John C. Reilly’s performance was a standout. Jackson, as always was great but sometimes felt mechanical. Jing Tian was pretty. And Kong himself? Even though he’s pretty much CGI, Kong was awesome. Kong is King!
Film Review: ‘Kong: Skull Island’
Reviewed on March 1, 2017. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 118 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Warner Bros. release of a Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures production. Producers: Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia. Executive producers: Eric McLeod, Edward Cheng.
CREW: Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Screenplay: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly. Camera (color, widescreen): Larry Fong. Editor: Richard Pearson.
WITH: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell.