Kong: Skull Island (Review)

Written by J. Weagle

Hail to the King.

The Kong franchise is one of cinemas longest running, dating all the way back to 1933 when the King made his debut in a stop motion masterpiece that was unlike anything people had seen before.  Since then the big ape has seen his fair share of ups and downs in the form of sequels and numerous remakes but none of them were able to capture the magic of the original.  Kong: Skull Island the latest take in the franchise does one major thing right in that it doesn’t attempt to recapture that original magic, instead it intends to create its own unique print in the legacy of Kong.

Skull Island takes place in 1973 directly after (the exact moment actually) that America has decided to pull out of the Vietnam War and now stares down the barrel of the Cold War.  A group of scientist lead by Bill Randa (John Goodman) wants to send a team to an unexplored island and discover its secrets before the Russians do.  It’s uncharted territory so they will need the help of Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) a skilled navigator, Weaver (Brie Larson) an anti-war photographer and a platoon lead by Packard (Sam Jackson).  The early stages of the film acts as nothing more than a quick introduction, it moves fast and you could tell that the filmmakers wanted to get us on that island as quickly as possible.

In regards to the pacing some will either love or hate it, we spend very little time with backstory but yet somehow it does a good job of giving us the bits and pieces we need to care about whats happening.  I actually thought that it all came together very well, and considering just about every living person has watched or at least heard of King Kong at this point we don’t need to beat around the bush.  Some might be turned off by how much the film shows so quickly but I for one found it to be a refreshing take on the monster movie genre.  The all star cast does a great job, and you can really feel a bond between them reminding me more of a traditional war movie than a monster movie, it’s ripe with stereotypes but in the sort of charming deliberate way.  The real standout actor for me being Brie Larson who adds a heaping amount of humanity to everything and I felt as though we were experiencing things through her eyes.

As I mentioned if there is one issue some might have with Kong: Skull Island it’s that the pacing moves at such a staggering rate it is easy to miss something.  There are lots of subtle moments scattered throughout and not for one second does the movie stop to let you take them in.  In more ways than one I was reminded of Mad Max Fury Road and how stylized and hyper realistic everything is making for some truly great action sequences that move like a high speed chase.

Kong: Skull Island is perhaps one of the finest shot action movies to come along in quite some time (perhaps since Fury Road).  Mixing the hyper realness with a great 1970’s soundtrack and a Vietnam aesthetic mixed with giant monsters is a clash that I never would have expected to work so well.  Sure there are moments filled with typical Hollywood cliches but I’m not expecting grade A storytelling in my giant monster fighting movie.  With that being said the story isn’t terrible and it attempts to relay an overall message even if it is a muddled one.

I really loved nearly every aspect of this movie, from the great cinematography, incredible stylized direction to the likable mega star cast.  Sure i’d prefer if it focused on Kong a little more than the other giants but I understand why they went the direction they did and it works.  It does stumble around some cliches of the genre and the ending felt as though they really weren’t quite sure how to wrap everything up but at the end of the day it all came together to be a very enjoyable experience.  With all that being said, Kong: Skull Island might just be my favorite in the long running franchise and its nice to have the king back.

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