Kong: Skull Island (d. Jordan Vogt-Roberts USA 2017) Review

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis at the bottom for any who wish to see one.

Entertainment:

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Performances:

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Predictability:

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Technical:

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Background Introduction

King Kong (d. Merian C. CooperErnest B. Shoedsack USA 1933)  and its legacy has so much history. King Kong (1933) was a wonderful film, that really showed the effects mastery of stop motion animator Willis O’Brien. Willis O’Brien taught Ray Harryhausen one of the greatest special effects masters of the 20th century. King Kong also inspired many of the most important films in film history. One is Gojira (d. Ishiro Honda Japan 1954), now an Icon of Japan, but also the start of a genre that would later incorporate King Kong into it. King Kong is one of those stories that is ultimately timeless, like Beauty and the Beast (a. Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve France 1740), Romeo & Juliet (a. William Shakespeare England approximately 1591-1595) or A Christmas Carol (a. Charles Dickens Chapman & Hall England 1843)– people just know the story. King Kong (1933) is about the discovery of a giant ape that falls in love with a woman and after being declared the 8th Wonder of the World runs amok in New York and climbs the Empire State Building. SPOILERS: King Kong is then shot down by planes and it is declared that beauty killed the beast. END OF SPOILERS. There are far more details but generally people are aware of at least that. King Kong has had sequels and remakes over the 84 years and one such sequel was Kingu Kongu tai Gojira / King Kong Vs. Godzilla (d. Honda Japan/USA 1962). With Godzilla (d. Gareth Edwards USA 2014) doing well enough to announce its own sequels for a successful reboot of the 1954 film, Kong: Skull Island (d. Jordan Vogt-Roberts 2017) seemed inevitable as the right time for the giant ape to resurface.

The Look

This film knows it’s source material, in fact it makes numerous references and also makes some stranger references to films like Apocalypse Now (d. Francis Ford Coppola USA 1979), Predator (d. John McTiernan USA 1987); and the more obvious Jurassic Park (d. Steven Spielberg USA 1993), Gojira (1954), Godzilla (2014), King Kong (1933) and King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962). Visually the film is unexpectedly bright and with many colourful and powerful shots. In fact the film juggles multiple looks, harping back to a 70s theme, a home movie theme and a photography theme in its general look and atmosphere. This all makes sense for the scenes provided and is a risky move that may surprise most audiences. Also, to give a sense of scale, shots like a look at the island travelling forward through a wide angle lens really work to the films advantage. It gives a level of scope to where they are. However, Kong: Skull Island doesn’t always succeed at giving such a sense of scale throughout.

 

The Story & Characters

Kong: Skull Island seems to learn off the back of a pitfall of Godzilla (2014) and doesn’t take ‘the Jaws (d. Spielberg USA 1975) approach’ – (slowly building up to revealing the monster). We see Kong early and we see him big and in full force. This actually feels a lot more relevant to the genre. Jaws worked as it built suspense and felt the impending danger. Kong: Skull Island knows its audience, which is almost a lot more fantasy based. It’s important to see the visuals, the creatures and the effects. Now, a criticism of the genre, does also apply to Kong: Skull Island: the characters. They can be interesting; some do have character arcs – even if some seem a bit strange (Samuel L. Jackson’s Ahab moments). Though most fall flat and are to be predictably killed. Though I’d like to add, (despite slight hints) good on them for not including a forced ‘girl and King Kong’ love plot.

Conclusion

The biggest criticism I have for this film though is that it is, like a lot of films coming out at the moment, setting something up. The film doesn’t feel complete – as if they held back. It establishes Kong and adds to a universe but one of the most exciting moments and seemingly the purpose of the film, is in the post credits sequence. Generally, Kong: Skull Island is an entertaining film with many interesting visuals but it is also very much of its genre – which isn’t for everyone. It’s important to consider the genre when making the assessment of the film.

Synopsis

Two scientists (from Monarch) find evidence of an island and acquire a team to investigate what could add evidence to their belief that monsters exist. On this island they discover King Kong, who quickly renders them lost on the island.

Further Reading

rottentomatoes.com

metacritic.com

Official Site

Interview with Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Interview with Tom Hiddleston

Interview with Samuel L. Jackson

Kong is King Featurette

Easter Eggs

King Kong 1933 – Kong Girl

King Kong1933’s Clutches

King Kong 1933 – End

King Kong vs Godzilla – Fight

Kong: Skull Island (d. Jordan Vogt-Roberts USA/China 2017)



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