Those of you who already read my Most Anticipated Movies of 2017 know that Kong: Skull Island was my most anticipated movie of the year. I’ll let you read the article to find out why.
I was intrigued when I heard Warner Bros. was re-imagining the story of King Kong once again for the big screen. The original 1933 classic is dear to heart and I have seen mostly all, if not all, of the reiterations of the past 84 years. Alas, many have fallen flat with some being downright terrible. The next best one to the original was Peter Jackson’s King Kong from 2005 which essentially was an elongated remake.
So where does Jordan Vogt-Roberts first big-budget film take its place among the legendary original?
~A Fresh Journey
Clearly from the trailers, this new Kong film is a fresh story that audiences are not familiar with unlike its predecessors. A new story is the right move because the original story can be viewed in the original film (of course) or the updated take from 1976, starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, or Peter Jackson’s 2005 overblown rendition of the ’33 classic.
The best way to describe the story of Kong: Skull Island is Apocalypse Now meets Predator sort of meets Jurassic Park. This is a winning combination since all three are great films albeit Predator having some cheesy plot elements which this latest Kong slightly does as well (this is my opinion-other reviewers have disagreed).
The movie begins with instant action which is great because Jackson’s film is notorious for taking at least an hour to get to Skull Island and then even longer to see Kong. The film also takes place close to the tail end of Vietnam which setups the soldiers going into the island with a group of scientists called Monarch that wish to map an uncharted island. It’s an interesting choice to set this during Vietnam and one I have no problem with. The writers were able to tie generational elements into the story that works and is creative.
Kong provides a fresh cast of actors with a few old familiar faces. Focusing on certain characters shifts throughout the movie. The characters that are initially setup eventually recede to the background which is kind of too bad since this is their expedition and they should provide more insight into what they expected to encounter on the island; this is glossed over and should have been fleshed out more. Actually the opening setup with the key characters moves quite quickly because the writers/director want to get audiences on the island to get them into the thick of action. I am fine with getting past the initial setup because nobody wants to slog through the first act like in Jackson’s film. As stated I just wish we would wrap back around to the characters who go the journey started.
Once on the island the focus shifts to Tom Hiddelston and Brie Larson’s character; which both of their character’s setup is weak. We don’t learn much, if anything, about them on the island which is too bad because I feel there is something to their characters but we’re only given morsels.
Samuel L. Jackson is probably the second best character, not because of writing, but because of the depth he brings through his acting. His story arc is probably the most interesting, but I do feel it could be played up slightly more as to raise the stakes even higher. His platoon are throwaway nameless characters. There is about three of them that get a decent amount of screen time but their characters don’t go below the cliche surface of all that they want is to get back home to see their families and they’re a close knit group of ornery ‘brothers’.
John C. Reilly is the best character. He is the only one given depth, his humor really works, and he provides an interesting push into the story.
Overall the characters are shallow, but they’re fun to journey with and Brie Larson is easy on the eyes ; )
Kong is a basic plot but so is the original. I believe Vogt-Roberts is trying to capture the awe and amazement the original brought to audiences 84 years ago, which is no small feat since it is hard to dazzle with CGI today. He creates new creatures on the island because the audience has already seen the old creatures. I remember the first time seeing the original I loved finding what new creature would be next. Vogt-Roberts keeps the audience wondering what will come next. There are not as many creatures or creature battles as in the original or 2005 remake which is slightly disappointing but the battles given are epic.
The romance between Kong and the female is ditched for this movie and rightly so. Kong is given more humanity in this film that is more realistic than predecessors. He is a protector and interestingly given small backstory that may lend to his character change in this film. Kong and Brie Larsson’s character share a small connection that works by not being overplayed.
Vogt-Roberts is relatively new behind the camera. His camera work is unique and exciting. Those familiar with Zach Snyder’s camera direction (which is controversial) will find Vogt-Roberts channeling Snyder with his quick cuts, dutch angle zooms, and use of slow-mo, plus other zany stylized cinematography. Some of this really works since it injects excitement and is fresh but sometimes it is too much and feels oddly out of place.
I will say some parts of the plot could have used some tuning, particularly toward the end of the second act and the third act. There is a really cheesy plot point at the end of the second act which seems silly and confusing at first but it makes some sense after giving it some thought. The only problem is the characters don’t sell me on why they’re doing it considering their character motives aren’t thoroughly established, making this big point of the movie murky. Also the end battle has some quick editing that causes some confusion by making logical leaps the audience member cannot follow. It’s not Batman v. Superman confusing but the filmmakers are hoping the audience will be too preoccupied with the intense action.
The CGI is gorgeous therefore really lending itself to enhancing the movie and viewing experience. I saw the film in IMAX 3D which is the absolute best way to watch. The 3D is moreso subtly immersive and really a nice touch if anything, but definitely not the best 3D film so if you’re not big into 3D then save yourself some cash. Kong is a gorgeously shot film with breathtaking real and CGI locations that are seamless. The creature battles are heart-stopping. Kong looks similar to how he did in the original and really looks frighteningly real, not to mention he is the biggest Kong ever.
~Rating & Recommendation
Kong: Skull Island is fun action romp but not much beyond that. It features a fresh intriguing plot with some fun characters. Don’t go into this movie expecting the original or the 2005 remake. Kong: Skull Island is its own beast. Personally I’ll be reaching for this one on my shelf over Jackson’s simply because of Jackson’s pacing issues and this provides fresh exciting action with some great cinematography.
I am giving Kong: Skull Island 7 stars out of 10 making it a Solid Recommend