Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kong: Skull Island Review

Kong: Skull Island
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast Headliners: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, John C Reilly, many more
Original Release Date: March 10, 2017

                The character of King Kong, and he definitely can be a nuanced one despite his simian nature, has been interpreted several times since his theatrical debut so long ago. Kong: Skull Island is the latest take on the mighty gorilla although this time it tackles a new aesthetic and time period: 1970s in the midst of the Vietnam War. At the same time, it also shares DNA in its universe (and style) with 2014’s American Godzilla reboot. Let’s get past the monkey-ing around and dive in to how it turned out..
                The movie opens with a flashback to not the 1970s but instead to the 1940s. In an exciting opening bit two fighter pilots crash land on a mysterious island and soon find themselves fighting not just each other but under the gaze of a gigantic ape, King Kong (you know who he is).  The film jumps to the 70s for its remainder. Members of secretive agency MONARC (the connecting link to Godzilla, aside from a couple other small but well blended dialogue lines) in Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) get approval to launch an expedition to the titular Skull Island. They are soon joined by a large cast of help (echoing Peter Jackson’s 2005 take) including lead human hero and tracker James Conrad(Tom Hiddleston), lead human heroine and war photojournalist Mason Weaver(Brie Larson), and various soldiers such as Colonel Packard(Samuel L Jackson), Jack Chapman(Toby Kebbel), Captain Cole(Shea Whigham), and more.
                It’s hard not to draw comparisons to the 2005 version since it came out in semi-recent public eye and also placed more emphasis on the island part of the Kong saga than most other films of this legend. However, this movie brisks through the build-up (perhaps a bit too quickly) and never makes it back to New York City either (anti-spoilers).  The movie, for the most part better for it, takes place in large part on the mysterious island which earns it its name.            
                As expected considering that there is a lot of action. The island is packed with deadly and cool creatures which seem to go beyond realistic paleontology  to stuff more fitting the science-fictiony “kaiju”verse in a world where Godzilla also exists. The CGI effects on these various creatures, from grassy giant elk to a giant spider to the vicious “Skullcrawlers” are great. This includes of course King Kong himself, made even bigger than most versions to accomdate his likely future ‘zilla foe and motion captured quite believably (nearly up to par with Serkis’ 2005 version) by Terry Notary.  As with that zilla foe, the movie excels when it showcases giant bombastic monster fights between these creatures or against the humans. Mountains tremble and fires light up the screen. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts also provides a clean great take on the intensity of these smash-em-up parts. They have a very larger than life feel to them as well being more like a crazy comic panel than horror or documentary. Colors are bright and movement is fast and surreal. At times this borders on ultra cheese, but is often fun.
                When the action does show it up it is awesome and great. It’s just that , as often can be in a monster movie of this type, the human element is less so memorable. There are so many characters most get lost in the shuffle.  That’s not to discredit it’s highlights of which there are in this star packed cast. Hiddleston is a fine enough charming and cool lead. SLJ’s arc takes an interesting turn. Whigham’s character provides some laughs and interesting perspective. Others like the usually great Goodman and Larson are not quite up to their usual level. And yet further others do not get much chance to shine before disappearing, sometimes literally. 
                Without a doubt though the other person who is the best at “monkeying around” is John C Reilly’s Hank Marlow, a stranded person on Skull Island. His crazed personality offers bountiful laughs (in a film that otherwise has mixed delivery on this with its other characters) as well as tying into a mystical lore of what Kong’s role is. Nearly every seen with him is a delight and he provides almost a version of his Dr.Brule character from television. This levity helps add to the larger than life charm of the film and is a palette cleanser.
                The Vietnam setting also makes it feel like a war film from those days. The costumes, sunset artsy colors , and music add nicely to that feel. While some aspects of it are breezed over, it helps make this take feel unique and strongly feel of the era as well. If only a bit more of its time was used in its execution it could have aided with its impact.
                It can be long, silly in some of its choices and character uses, and miss the mark in some areas to fall just short of deep or epic. But Kong: Skull Island offers simple, crazy monster fights in the moments that are right. It most of all leaves one hype to see the ape again in whatever crossover comes ahead in 2020. There’s a decent foundation to be improved upon for a  future match for the ages. On it's own, you'll have fun.  7.85 out of 10


No comments:

Post a Comment