Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
In 2014, Godzilla made his triumphant return to American cinema and it was pretty damn cool. The success of the film led to, you guessed it, another cinematic universe. Only this time, it doesn’t involve superheroes. Three years later, Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment announced plans to create a “MonsterVerse,” which includes various Toho Co. characters such as Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, and King Kong and now, we have the second film in this ever-growing franchise. Kong: Skull Island is a major departure from the classic tale of the giant movie monster. It doesn’t involve New York or a damsel in distress or the making of a movie. What the movie does have is a fresh premise that offers viewers the same Kong they know and love while placing action-packed battles at every turn.
Kong: Skull Island follows a rag-tag group on an expedition to the mysterious Skull Island. The trip is mounted by the Monarch Corporation (yes the same one from Godzilla), and led by explorer Bill Randa (John Goodman) who recruits disenchanted soldier James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a unit of Vietnam war vets captained by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Upon arriving on the island, they discover that is plays host to a humongous ape called Kong and find themselves caught up in a continuous war between the ape and the island’s vicious predators.
I went into this film with a simple mindset: “I’m here to see destruction and a good old fashioned monster film.” Kong: Skull Island does exactly this. The film includes mesmerizing visual effects as every time Kong appears on screen, you know a fantastic action scene is coming. Kong absolutely delivers on the spectacle side of the MonsterVerse. It’s just so much fun. Scenes range from the villainous “skull crawlers” munching on the arriving humans to Kong in an all-out brawl with the prehistoric fighters. The film is visually stunning, grand and everything I want from an over-the-top action film.
In addition to the action, Kong: Skull Island features a truly impressive cast. Despite their technically not being a bad performance, you don’t really seem to care about these characters. Granted the film is more about setting up future films and displaying the awesomeness that is King Kong, it would have been nice to have seen these characters more fleshed out. Tom Hiddleston is solid as the mercenary tracker but that’s all he is, a tracker. He’s brought to the island to find Kong and that’s the extent of his character. Aside from sharing a rather affectionate moment with the giant ape, Brie Larson is wasted in the film. Her character is fairly generic and straightforward but she did demonstrate genuine chemistry with Hiddleston’s James Conrad. John Goodman plays the suspicious government agent surprisingly well but suffers from a bland character arc. He serves the plot nicely but I would have liked to see more of Goodman’s character.
The real standouts of the film (aside from the eighth wonder of the world himself) were Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Riley. Jackson portrays a bloodthirsty war veteran stunningly and gives the character real complexity and emotion. His character, Preston Packard, is someone who can’t let go of the war he fought in and it carries over to the expedition to Skull Island. Riley plays a World War II veteran who has been stranded on the island for 25+ years. He brings a sense of light-heartedness to the film and his humor is a welcome trait to the popcorn flick.
Henry Jackman continues to prove that he is one of the best composers working today as the score for Kong is great. He nails the mysterious, action-packed feel of the film in every song composed. Since this film takes place in the 70’s, it obviously has a phenomenal soundtrack. The album, which is powered by CCR, Black Sabbath and more, only enhances the pulse-pounding action being shown on screen.
The film does have a post-credit scene and it’s a big one. Seriously, don’t get up after the credits roll because you are not going to want to miss what this film teases.
Kong: Skull Island, like Godzilla before it, suffers from underdeveloped characters but succeeds in delivering an extravagant action-spectacle that includes a fantastic depiction of King Kong, a great musical score, striking cinematography and a tease that will have you clamoring for more monster films. It is a simple, yet thrilling blockbuster that generates excitement for whatever the MonsterVerse has planned for the future.
Nick’s Rating: 7.5/10
Artur’s Rating – 7/10
JJ’s Rating – Indifferent
Kong: Skull Island opens on March 10, 2017.
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