Kong: Skull Island (2017)
PG-13 | 2h | Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 10 March 2017
Synopsis: A team of explorers and soldiers travel to an uncharted island in the Pacific, unaware that they are crossing into the domain of monsters, including the mythic Kong.
Review: Hollywood loves its franchises and none is more engaging than King Kong. It has been twelve years since the release of Peter Jackson’s King Kong and a whopping eighty four years since his black and white debut in 1933. Over time Kong has evolved little and still remains a very iconic and endearing super monster. In KONG: SKULL ISLAND we get even more attached to this big, furry ape and as always he is very impressive. This film does a whole lot of things right. Not that the past few attempts failed but something about this one just fired from all chambers.
We are introduced to a lot of characters fairly quick. Yet somehow the pacing never bogs down and the film gets to the meat in short order. Also even though there are several faces and personalities to latch on to the audience has no problem understanding their individual drive and motivation. It is a lot of info but no fluff; just facts. Once the heavy action starts we don’t have to waste energy trying to connect to the characters. We are already buckled in for the ride.
Explorer Bill Randa (John Goodman) and scientist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) convince the U.S Government to give them a military escort to a recently discovered island. The Vietnam war has literally just ended 24 hours earlier and a team led by Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) is given the convoy task. An expert tracker (Tom Hiddleston) and female war photographer (Brie Larson) round out the entourage. None of them have any idea what they are getting in to. Tensions mount and personalities clash as they try to survive.
Like the book this version gives us an island teeming with mythical creatures and far removed villagers. It is obviously a prequel to the King Kong films we are used to so some of that had to be intact. Another smart move by the filmmakers was to not saturate every frame with some sort of animal. There are enough unique and well built creatures to ohh and ahh over but the main attraction of Kong remains forefront. The finishing touch is the inclusion of one additional monstrosity that gives Kong a predatory enemy while filling in some backstory of his reign on the island. The detail of all these beasts are extravagant and glorious on the big screen.
The film is set in the 70’s and as mentioned right on the tail end of the Vietnam War. This is the perfect excuse to use all of the iconic music and ideals of the time period. Plus it feels like an homage to all of the war films that dealt with that conflict. Even the poster is a nod to Apocalypse now. Songs like CCR’s Run Through the Jungle, and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid add a perfect mix tape for the adventure. That said this film has lots of humor and at times kindly pokes fun at the era and military action.
Humor and Kong seem like odd bedfellows. I would have thought the same thing before seeing it. It is not a slapstick sophomoric comedy. Not even close. The action and thrills are intense and the peril quite realistic. But the mannerisms and some of the dialogue is quite fun to listen to. A large part of this light hearted banter comes from a stranded American (John C. Reilly) they stumble across on the island. Not to give anything away about his character but to say he is eccentric and hilarious is an understatement. But again, this never takes you out of the island moment or the danger in the trees. It just allows you time to catch your breath and laugh a little.
Kong’s name is in the title and he has to command the screen. And he does. All of the traits and characteristics of the Kong we know are here He is larger than life and very protective of his domain. He is smart and powerful but lacking of malice. He has earned the right to rule as King. The attention to his stature and presence make this a standout addition to the movie legacy.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language. The main issue parents have will be the violent images. Unlike films of the past where you knew someone was getting eaten but it was off camera and you heard a bone crunch or an anguished scream, this is more realistic. The violence between the creatures is not as bad but when the humans meet their doom it is front and center. Not much blood but no doubt the outcome. Other than that it is certainly tame for the 13 and up crowd and doesn’t push the limits on the rating. I give it 4 out of 5 chopper rides. It is the perfect popcorn movie. Well written, fast paced, and plenty of Kong. Can’t ask for more than that. And stay through the credits!