Rated PG-13 (for violence, action, and brief strong language)
Depth. Quiet intimate moments. A story driven plot. If you are after any of these things, then Kong: Skull Island is not the movie for you.
Skull Island is a modern B-movie that revels in its silliness, a film that uses its script as a device to pit monster against human in a giant spectacle, and you know what? It’s a whole lot of fun.
Set mainly in the 1970’s, we journey with a group of researchers, among them Bill Randa (John Goodman), seismologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) and biologist San Lin (Jing Tian), to an uncharted island in search of untold wonders. To help them navigate the unknown dangers of the island, they have also sought the help of a former SAS commando, Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), and a military escort consisting of Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), Warrant Officer Reg Slivko (Thomas Mann), Warrant Officer Glenn Mills (Jason Mitchell), Major Jack Chapman (Toby Kebbell), Captain Earl Cole (Shea Whigham) to name a few. Rounding up the group is photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) hoping to document any discoveries the research team might make. But right from the onset the expedition is beleaguered with a myriad of weird and deadly challenges thrown at them by the island.
Now while I could talk about the characters and motivations, it’s plain to see that they are just the excuse to unleash a whole lot of bedlam on screen. Some of the character arcs just seem too driven for the sake of the plot. They often put themselves in situations that would have a normal person scratching their heads. But if they didn’t make such illogical decisions, we wouldn’t get to see Kong smash, so I guess I can live with that.
Most of the roles are bland or clichés, but John C. Reilly turn as American pilot Hank Marlow always managed to get laughs from the audience. His off-kilter nature and good humour gave us more of a reason to root for the band of humans than any of the other characters back-stories. But then again, when you go into a movie about giant apes, I don’t think the human characters are the main priority.
Being set during the end of the Vietnam War, the film-makers took the opportunity to shoot the movie in a very 70’s aesthetic. From the colour palette to the film grain and the way the scenes are shot, you could easy mistake this as a film that was actually made in the 70’s. With the electric guitars pumping in the background score and music hits from the 70’s blaring away, this is a very different Kong from what we are used to, but it still works. It all comes together in a fun, schlocky way that is entertaining throughout.
Unlike more recent monster movies like Godzilla, Kong is not afraid to show off its titular character. After a few glimpses early in the movie, audience won’t have to wait long to take in the full gigantic glory of the furry simian. His full reveal makes up one of the more epic set-pieces in the film, and the on-screen destruction he brings will have most monster fans grinning from ear-to-ear. And while Kong is the monster that most of the audience will come to see, there are a large assortment of other bizarre creatures that also vie for the movie-goers attention. It truly is a smorgasbord for the monster buff.
It’s surprising that for a movie that is so focused on absolute carnage, so many of the sequences are also beautiful to look at. Sunsets bathing the screen with orange and red hues, lush green valleys and waterfalls, and even the costumes of the extras all pop out of the screen, vibrant and creating breath-taking imagery. Just the cinematography alone takes this creature feature up a few levels. It helps that all the CG imagery used in the creature effects fit seamlessly into these scenes (even if there were a few cases of bad green screen here and there).
As you can probably tell, I liked Kong: Skull Island. Park your brain at the door, and get ready for some monster mayhem.
I give Kong: Skull Island a 7 out of 10, and also ask you to hang around till the end of the credits for a little Easter egg.