Kong: Skull Island is the second movie in the planned cinematic universe featuring monsters, after 2014 movie Godzilla. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the movie stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, John C Reilly, Corey Hawkins, Jin Tian, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whingham, Thomas Mann and John Ortiz. We love monster movies and the trailers look fun. Here’s our review of Kong: Skull Island…
What’s it about
In 1944, an American pilot and a Japanese one get stranded on an uncharted island. As they try to kill each other, a giant ape appears out of nowhere and breaks the fight.
Wow! Only five minutes in and we already get to see a proper glimpse of King Kong. The action moves nearly three decades later, when Bill Randa (John Goodman) and his colleague Brooks (Corey Hawkins), members of a secret Government agency called Monarch, get approval to go on an expedition to Skull Island to study geology there. They are given a military escort led by Lt. Col. Packard (Samuel L Jackson), a war veteran who is unhappy about USA backing out of Vietnam War. Randa also hires a former SAS officer Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) as a tracker, while an anti-war photographer Weaver (Brie Larson) tags along to find out the real purpose of the mission. When they reach the island, they drop bombs to check the ground’s seismic activity. However this angers Kong and he attacks their helicopters, killing many of Packard’s men while stranding the survivors into three groups scattered over the island.
As the three groups make their way to their rendezvous point, the one led by Conrad and Weaver meet Marlow (John C Reilly), the American pilot who was stranded on the island for 28 years. He tells them that Kong is actually the savior of the island, while the real enemy is something far more dangerous and evil.
It’s no big secret but Kong is the real deal in the movie. Whenever the movie bothers to focus on the giant ape (as well as the rest of the creatures on the island), the proceedings come alive. You might miss the emotional resonance of Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance in Peter Jackson’s version of 2005, but Terry Notary (who did the motion capture of the ape here) has not done a bad job either. The CGI team has to commended for the way they rendered the creature, and the camera also lovingly captures every strand of hair on the ape’s body. Even the other creatures are rendered near perfectly, with the Skull crawlers and a harmless log-like creature being the standouts. Technically, the movie scores high points in the way the director has choreographed the action scenes, especially the first helicopter attack scene, or when Kong is attacked by a giant squid or the final battle. In fact, any scene that has Kong in it is worth your ticket money. Thankfully, unlike the 2014 film Godzilla, the director doesn’t cut away from the action just when the Kong shows up. The sound editing and score are fab, while the camerawork captures the beauty of the island, as well as the terror of the creatures living there. You also won’t miss out the anti-war message hidden in here.
In the previous section, I mentioned how any scene featuring the giant ape is worth your money. Unfortunately, the movie also happens to have human characters as well, and that’s where it flounders. Save for John C Reilly’s adorable act as the long stranded survivor who hasn’t lost his touch of humour, none of the characters manage to make much of an impact. Tom Hiddleston plays a generic hero who can’t die. Brie Larson, who in comparison, fares better as she gets to save the day a couple of times for the heroes. But even she doesn’t get to do much and her sudden connection with Kong looks forced. Samuel L Jackson plays Samuel L Jackson, while John Goodman and the rest of the actors are just here to fill up the roster (and the death counts). In fact, the way some of the main characters are killed leaves you rolling your eyes with disbelief (One sacrificial death towards the end will make you laugh more than pity him). It’s disappointing because the movie has some talented actors and yet we don’t feel a thing when any of them snuff it out. The premise is nothing to talk about other than the fact it is exactly the same as countless creature flicks that have come before. While Kong: Skull Island has its moments of cheesy fun, a better plot and more rounded characters would have made it a fantastic watch.
What to do
Kong: Skull Island is perfect for viewers who love mindless creature flicks where people get killed a lot. Search for a little depth in the premise, and you will certainly face disappointment. Go, enjoy seeing Kong killing a few monsters and beating his chest like a true warrior. That alone is worth your popcorn.
P.S. – There is a post-credits scene that links King Kong to a wider monster universe. Don’t you miss that!