Kong: Skull Island is Loud, Dumb and Fun (Film Review)
King Kong is not a monster movie. It is the monster movie ––– Kong, along with Godzilla, are arguably the two most quintessential and definitive monsters in film history. 2014’s Godzilla reboot proved that audiences still have an appetite for this jam. If all goes according to plan, we may very well be seeing Kong and Godzilla duking it out in a couple of years. There’s something wholly unique about classic characters like Godzilla or King Kong invading our theaters – this is more than just a movie… it’s an event of its own. How does Kong: Skull Island shape in a cinematic climate dominated by superheroes? Let’s find out…
Distancing itself from other incarnations of Kong, Skull Island focuses on Kong’s home with a big emphasis on its ecosystem and surrounding dangers. The film takes place in 1973 at the cusp of the Vietnam War, where we follow a distinct group of characters who explore a possibly dangerous island in search of answers. This cast is massive, so let’s all take a deep breath. Tom Hiddleston is a former SAS Captain who leads the expedition. Samuel L. Jackson is an enemy-obsessed Army Lieutenant Colonel who deals in absolutes. Brie Larson is a pro-peace photojournalist. John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Jian Tian and John Ortiz all play scientists, while Jason Mitchell, Toby Kebbell, Shea Whigham and Thomas Mann are soldiers. When the crew arrives gun-blazing to the island, Kong attacks the squadron of helicopters… and the quest for survival begins.
Kong: Skull Island is visually arresting. Cinematographer Larry Fong (of Batman v. Superman and Super 8 fame) doesn’t hold back in his unmistakable tributes to Apocalypse Now. There’s a sort of nostalgic feel to the way everything looks – Fong’s unique eye for color manifests itself with rich greens and yellows. Aside from the cinematography, the visual effects yield some pretty great action thrills. The action is handled quite well, with plenty of emphasis on the strength and superiority of Kong. The VFX was made by Industrial Light & Magic, who did a fantastic job showing how massive Kong is. At over 100-feet tall, he towers over everyone in his path – emphasizing that we are in his world.
The film itself is a load of fun. While the film is rich with characters, it doesn’t spend a needless amount of time setting up complicated backstories and relationships. In the first fifteen minutes, our characters are established and on their way to the island. Once Kong is introduced, the film lets loose with cartoony displays of action, quickly transitioning from one battle to another. One of the reasons Kong: Skull Island works so well is how much respect and admiration for the source character is evident; it feels like less of a gimmick and more like a spectacle.
Kong: Skull Island‘s biggest strength is that it doesn’t try to be more than its premise is. The film fully embraces that it’s a ridiculous monster-mayhem flick and it has fun with it. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has made a very self-aware film that isn’t afraid to shy away from the typical tropes that are evident in many modern blockbusters. Is it a masterwork? No, but it’s certainly a good time at the movies.