Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 1 hr. 58 min.
Studio: Warner Bros. & Legendary Entertainment
Screenwriter: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman
Kong: Skull Island is a reinvention of how the story of King Kong has been told before. Set at the end of the Vietnam war, a group of soldiers is tasked to babysit a collection of William Randa’s scientists (Goodman). They work for a secret government organization named Monarch. The rationale for this expedition is up there with the idea that the world is flat. Fact, the world is round, but to give you a sense of how nutty these scientists are to the government. Nevertheless, they go, not sure of what they’ll find.
At specific points, I thought, “adventure is out there!” as the line from the movie UP proclaims. Or “Welcome to Jumanji” if the cast got sucked into the board game with Alan Parish from the 1995 film Jumanji. Other points had me thinking of “Welcome to Jurassic Park” because my mind is a bizarre place to be at times. Then again, so is Skull Island.
As bizarre as things on Skull Island are, it is also visually beautiful in terms of the things that live there. The sound editing was spot on for all the screaming, crushing, smashing, and gorilla noises that bellow from Kong’s behemoth lungs. Kong himself is well designed and looks, sounds, and moves without speculating that he’s CGI.
The film’s pace moves well between the dialogue of the cast and interaction with the island or the other things they encounter that call the island their home. Kong himself is never far away and shows up early in the film and sticks around till the end. The film is named after him! Still, the story goes beyond a rock em’ sock em’ game of who can bash who first. There is meaning to the story, and that thread gives pace to the action. There is a lot of action.
Maybe it’s because America has begun to leave Vietnam finally; that took a toll on Lt. Col. Packard (Jackson). Perhaps it’s because he’s naturally an asshole. Maybe he just cracked—you decide. Either way, Packards’ encounter with Kong gives the story a side agenda that reeks of American mentality of power, loyalty, and dominance.
Other characters are WWII fighter pilot Hank Marlow (Reilly), who is the opposite of Packard. Mason Weaver (Larson), an anti-war photographer, and James Conrad (Hiddleston), a former British Special Air Service Captain. He’s the guide, on an island never been discovered before. While there is interaction with them and a sense of who they are, it’s not really important. Character development isn’t the focus in a movie designed to focus on the literal big guy, so it’s forgivable. There are many secondary characters, but remember I said this film reminded me of Jurassic Park, so that’s not worth focusing on. For such a large cast, everyone performs well given the locations and working against various things not in front of them to respond to. I give props to realistic emotions for that any day.
Monster movies like Kong, any of them, or Godzilla have never been my idea of good movie watching. I will sometimes, but they don’t do it for me usually. With Kong: Skull Island, however, I was interested in the retelling of the story that didn’t involve him carrying a screaming blonde to the top of the highest building. I guess that’s a spoiler of sorts… whatever. The reimagined plot sets up Kong for other cinematic adventures. If the story for those is as decent as this one, then okay. For that, I’d give it a go. So, if monster films haven’t done it for you in the past, this one might. If you already love this type of film, you won’t be disappointed.
Kong: Skull Island can go on your watchlist and is best viewed on a larger screen, ideally with more to offer than just your TV speakers. Also, stick around after the credits!
—a pen lady