Kong: Skull IslandBy Wilson Morales
March 2, 2017
After Warner Bros. successfully rebooted the monster genre with Legendary’s MonsterVerse, starting with Godzilla back in 2014, it was only matter of time as to which would be the next installment. Would it be a sequel or an old and classic monster brought back to the big screen. Turns out, it’s the latter we get with Kong: Skull Island.
Rather than going back to the story we last saw with Peter Jackson’s 2005 version, we get an original story that still tackles man versus beast (and other creatures) but without the damsel in distress melodrama. That said, Kong: Skull Island is an exciting and visually stunning film filled with amazing special effects that should leave audiences ready to see more of this revitalized monster genre.
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts from a script written by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein, the film is based from a story by John Gatins and Gilroy. Included in the ensemble are Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary and John C. Reilly. Talk about a cast of vets and future stars, if not already.
Set in the 1970s during the Vietnam War, John Goodman plays Bill Randa, a senior official of a secret organization known as Monarch, who convinces a team of military men to go on an expedition to a remote, undiscovered island. Onboard for the ride is James Conrad (Hiddleston), a former British Special Air Service Captain who now works as a hunter-tracker for Randa, war photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Corey Hawkins as a biologist who believes in Randa’s theory, which they keep to themselves.
Little do they know that after surveying the island while in helicopters, half the team would lose their lives when creatures start appearing from nowhere including the biggest ape they have ever seen, the legendary King Kong; who by the way, is taller than the previous versions and still in his youth. Led by Army Lt. Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), who’s the leader of the Sky Devils helicopter squadron, he’s more than pissed his men were ambushed not only by Kong but by Randa for failing to disclose the true nature of coming to this island.
With the team separated during the attack, it’s survival of the fittest as they try to navigate somehow to get to the others and find a way out. Hope comes in the form of Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a World War II Lieutenant who’s been stranded on Skull Island for the last 28 years. How he survived living among non-speaking natives is anyone’s guess but he knows the island well enough and knows who and what’s considered dangerous and Kong isn’t one of them. He’s the island’s protector, but Packard doesn’t see it that way. Half his team is dead and to him, it’s a do or die mission and Kong must be stopped.
The film is split between action and drama. On one end of the film, we get to know the survivors from why they signed up and will they make it out alive and on the other end, we see plenty of action from Kong against humans, and Kong against the other creatures. The latter is the most thrilling part of the film. When bringing up the Vietnam War, you can’t help but remember Apocalpyse Now and how there’s a familiar look from that film; but it’s the action that matters and Vogt-Roberts has filled the film with plenty non-stop battle sequences. Credit goes a long way to the special effects team as they really did a great job with the huge spider-like creature and the ‘skin crawlers.’
As for the talent, everyone’s just in it for the ride. Having done their share of comedy, you can count on Goodman and Reilly to bring on some needed humor to balance out the action drama, especially with their lines. When Goodman says “Mark my word, there’ll never be a more screwed up time in Washington,” who knew when the script was written how relevant those words would be today.
Best known for his 2013 indie film The Kings of Summer, director Vogt-Roberts has stepped his game up to a level he probably couldn’t imagine. He’s delivered a winning blockbuster and is ready to tackled more bigger projects.