Kong Skull Island, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston

Movie Review: Kong Skull Island (2017) *Kong’s Island is Hollow*

Coming out of last year’s Comic Con, I thought Kong Skull Island was the most impressive looking film of the bunch, and I had high hopes for cinema’s ape emeritus going into his first outing since the bloated mess that was Peter Jackson’s King Kong.  This film takes place in the MONARCH Universe (I’m not sure if there’s an official name) along with Gareth Edward’s Godzilla and the upcoming-wait for it-Godzilla vs. King Kong.  Like Godzilla, the film gets the monster right.  This is an interesting take on Kong, and one that does him justice.  The problem, like in Godzilla, are the humans surrounding him.
Kong Skull Island is set in the closing days of the Vietnam War, and is not only our introduction to Kong, but serves as an origin story for the MONARCH organization.  Far from the military/science hybrid machine we saw in Godzilla, this MONARCH is really a concept awaiting their first discovery and they think they have it when they find Skull Island.  Throwing a desperation plea at a Senator lands them a helicopter squadron commanded by Col. Kurtz (played here by Samuel L. Jackson).  There isn’t even a subtle nod to Apocalypse Now in this film.  To every extent possible, this film tries to make SLJ’s character Marlon Brando and the entire scenario Apocalypse Now.  If this sounds like an idea that would intrude unnecessarily into what should be a cool monster movie, then you are right on every note EXCEPT for the cinematography.  This film is absolutely stunningly shot, and-yes-very Apocalypse Nowly shot, but brilliantly enough that I would seriously consider it Oscar caliber (FOR CINEMATOGRAPHY).

Kong Skull Island

You don’t have to wait long to meet the new Kong when you get to Skull Island as he has been waiting for the people who have been carpet bombing his island with sonic bombs to map it to show up so he could throw their helicopters through a mountain.  This thins our team considerably in short order.  SLJ spends the rest of the film trying to find a way to kill Kong in his quest to get some kind of “win” out of the Vietnam War.  Thank God for Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston, who are there to get the team off the island.  They are (along with John C. Reilly’s crazy stranded pilot) THE only likable human characters.  You’re rooting for them to make it off the island.  Kong can have the rest.

Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson in Kong Skull Island

The villain monster isn’t Kong though; it’s a bunch of lizards that have literally burrowed Skull Island hollow, terrorize the tribal inhabitants, and killed Kong’s family, leaving him the last of his species.  The Kong in this film, get ready to want to see Godzilla vs. Kong, IS NOT FULLY GROWN YET.  That’s right, this is a broody still-growing Kong, who is more of a protector of what he sees as his island and the people on it than a monster.  He’s definitely the most interesting character in the film, and when the final showdown comes between Kong and the monster who killed his parents, you’ll genuinely be rooting for him.

Kong Skull Island

The look of the film, the unique take on Kong, and the spectacular F/X are enough to push this over the edge as a rental for me.  Both Godzilla and Kong have, in these films, been reinvented as awesome monsters for a modern audience, but the problem is if they can’t find some human characters who don’t talk like crazycakes, then I don’t see much of a future to the MONARCH-verse.  They nailed the monsters, but no one cares without a human element.


Kong Skull Island Poster

7 thoughts on “Movie Review: Kong Skull Island (2017) *Kong’s Island is Hollow*”

  1. I still haven’t had the chance to see this and even though reviews have been pretty mixed, I’m still kind of looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Paul, I initially liked the film more because I totally did put my brain in a jar, and when Kong wraps that boat engine and anchor around his fist in that final fight I was clapping, but the human factor is so badly written and the weird desperation to make this film an homage to Apocalypse Now have diminished it. I own it, don’t get me wrong, but it is what it is. Here’s hoping for GvK!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. No monster movie (or horror) ever worked without characters you cared about. Sometimes the monster is the character you care about, and that counts. But if the monster is not the main character, I don’t care how amazing he is.

    I saw IT the other day, and I thought it was awesome, even though it would have been an order of magnitude better with someone like Frank Darabont at the helm, or someone not so exclusively horror-focused. But the thing that really kept me hooked was the cast of characters. It took a little while for me to get engaged, because the writing and directing were both pretty obvious, and the exposition was dealt with through a lot of cliches. But once those kids started exploring the sewers, and were unified by their encounters with the creature (and other, real-life, terrors) the group dynamic came out, and I was swept along.

    Of course, I was also swept along by an exquisite demon clown, but he was at the center of a few too many jumps scares. This movie works, and is proving to be so successful, because it’s a good-spirited coming of age tale at heart. There’s a reason that Stephen King has sold ten times more books than Clive Barker. He strives to hang his horrors on appealing frames, and he knows that a character could be drawn and quartered in great detail by a monster straight out of your worst nightmares, and you would not care a whit, unless you really cared about the character, and were terrified of seeing him suffer and die.

    Liked by 1 person

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