Reviews: monkey business with Kong – Skull Island
Kong: Skull Island,
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts,
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C Reilly, John Goodman, Tian Jing
In 1973 an expedition to a previously uncharted island leads to a discovery of giant proportions. John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and a huge ape called Kong all come together for the monster throw-down that we all hoped for.
King Kong movies have been part of my life since I was a kid, watching Faye Wray getting gripped by that big, hairy hand and trying to tame the savage beast has lived with me ever since. Monster Movies have become part of my cheering up ritual, along with the Broken Lizard group’s movies, there is nothing like seeing giant monsters going at it on the big screen to make me smile. When film-makers understand this we get big screen magic. It’s not about the great cast, it’s about the beat-downs that the monsters give each other and anyone caught up in the crossfire.
This film starts with a bang, going back to 1944, with an American and Japanese fighter pilot crashing on Skull Island and meeting Kong. Next we hit the end of the Vietnam conflict and back in Washington members of the Monarch group, set up to find monsters, is pushing for one last mission to prove their funding. John Goodman is leading the Monarch group and his past history with a monster is driving him to find other monsters and destroy them. Samuel L Jackson leads an American military group of pilots that are going to bring the team through the storm onto the island; he’s not too happy about the loss of the war. Brie Larson plays the anti-war photographer who is tagging along on the mission. While Tom Hiddleson plays the former SAS tracker they hire to get them home safely. John C. Reilly pops up to offer the comic relief for the film, and does so in his unique way (and come on, we all love John C Reilly).
This was everything I wanted it to be. What I mean by that is the human element of this film isn’t the main focus – like so many monster movies these days, this film makes sure it concentrates on Kong and the other beasts that he fights. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the characters are single-note, one-dimensional beings (well, okay, some of them are), but it’s about Kong and the huge beasts he beats the hell out of. He’s the leading man here, the rest are the supporting actors. The performers are all background players to the giant creatures and the battles that they are involved in. This is also the downside of the film to be honest; the balance has shifted too much the other way, My problem with Cloverfield (for example) is that we learn too much about the characters and don’t see the monster enough. Here we learn just enough to make the characters believable and then nothing else.
When Kong is going ape (sorry, I couldn’t resist), and beating things up it’s just made me laugh like a giddy kid on Christmas morning. The special effects are outstanding and the design of Kong and his fellow creatures is just perfect. The clever and creative ways in which creatures and people are killed probably shouldn’t have made me smile but they did (come on, enjoying strange screen deaths doesn’t make us bad people! Besides they are a part of the monster movie fun).
I should point out that this isn’t a typical kid’s movie, some of the deaths are graphic, and young children may have some problems with the violence. It’s not Death Wish or anything like that, to an old reviewer like myself it’s all tame, but I’m sure most of the kids I know that have watched Peter Jackson’s King Kong would be horrified by watching this one, so bear that in mind if you were thinking on taking youngsters along. To make a comparison that you may understand more, the violence in The Amazing Spider-Man would be Peter Jackson’s King Kong, while the action and violence in Kong: Skull Island is more like that seen in Deadpool. You’ll understand what I mean when you get to watch this.
Kong: Skull Island is a big screen film, like Pacific Rim – you’ve got to see this on the biggest screen that you can find. We got to see this film in the IMAX here in Dublin and I couldn’t imagine watching it on a screen smaller. Treat yourself to this one folks, Kong is still King!