Review: Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island
7 10

PLOT: A team of explorers, led by a military escort, land on a hidden island, which they discover is populated by fantastic beasts, all who whom are lorded over by a giant ape – KING KONG!

REVIEW: KONG: SKULL ISLAND is the second film in Warner Bros and Legendary’s Monsterverse, following 2014’s GODZILLA (and soon to be followed by GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS). Under director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (KINGS OF SUMMER), it’s a radical revamp for the sympathetic beast, last featured in Peter Jackson’s gargantuan KING KONG. While that film was a straight-up remake of the 1933 classic, KONG: SKULL ISLAND moves away from the classic formula - refreshing as it’s already been covered three times, in the ‘33 original, the seventies remake with Jeff Bridges, and Jackson’s movie - which is still popular among fans.

kong skull island brie larson tom hiddleston

Set towards the end of the Vietnam War, and confined to Kong’s home, Skull Island, this is a unique take on the character - although it plays with the iconography of the other films. As in the other movies, Kong is a sympathetic creature, although he’s probably never been as straight-up heroic as he is here. The island is quickly established as a place where Kong is the least of anyone’s worries - although pity those who cross him.

One of those unlucky folks happens to be Samuel L. Jackson, starring as the leader of a unit pulling out of ‘nam, who gets assigned to chaperon a group led by John Goodman, playing a kind of surrogate for the Carl Denham character. He wants to explore the island’s resources, but Kong’s not too happy about that when they start dropping bombs in his backyard. A violent, well-conceptualized air battle with Kong sends a crazed Jackson on a mission of vengeance, followed by his loyal unit, which includes the great Shea Whigham, Toby Kebbell, and STRAIGHT OUT OF COMPTON’s Jason Mitchell - with his co-star from that film, Corey Hawkins, also part of the cast.

Their crew also includes a dashing soldier of fortune, played by Tom Hiddleston, and an activist photojournalist, Brie Larson in her first turn since winning an Oscar for ROOM, who are not unsympathetic to Kong’s plight. All of the actors are well-cast, with Hiddleston’s soft-spoken hero an interesting contrast to Jackson’s tough-guy, and Larson a heroine in her own right, although the relationship between her and Kong doesn’t go the traditional route. Yet, as good as the impressive cast is, none fares better than John C. Reilly. While positioned as comic relief in the trailers, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call him the real human lead, with him playing a downed WW2 pilot who’s been stranded on Skull Island for 28 years. While squirrely and often hilarious, Reilly plays him with real heart and a bittersweet quality - and it’s him and the CGI Kong himself that really make the biggest impression.

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You've got to hand it to Vogt-Roberts. Despite being his first attempt at a major blockbuster, he’s made an assured, colorful movie that looks dynamic, especially in Imax, with truly immersive 3D that’s one of the better recent uses of the technology I can remember. My only issue is that some of his shots or transitions fall on the cutesy side, as if he’s trying too hard to put a distinctive stamp on it. This gives the film a slightly jagged quality that takes a bit of getting used to. The wall-to-wall period hits also overwhelm the soundtrack (with one character managing to rescue a record player and some LP’s from the crash being a dumb stretch), and Henry Jackman’s score isn’t as central as it should be.

One thing that’s immediately apparent when watching this is how far VFX have come in the twelve years since the last Kong, with the big guy never looking quite as real as he does here. The rest of the creature design is also impressive, as are the action sequences, which are surprisingly violent for a PG-13, with one kill looking like it came straight out of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. The MPAA sure has gotten loose about violence, yet you can still only say the F-word once. Go figure.

Overall, KONG: SKULL ISLAND is a fun, fast-paced adventure flick, and a good way to continue the Kong franchise. It's a lot better than the GODZILLA reboot, thanks mostly to the attention that’s been paid to assembling a good, human cast. Some clunky exposition and the aforementioned self-consciously cool bits aside, this is a blast.

Source: JoBlo.com



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