Kong: Skull Island
Jordan Vogt-Roberts' Kong: Skull Island is an awesome feat, showcasing the iconic character with large action, charismatic characters and a unique Vietnam vibe. This is what blockbuster filmmaking is all about.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ Kong: Skull Island is THE best King Kong movie yet. Vogt-Roberts has taken the classic monster and mashed him together with the paranoia and uncertainty of the Vietnam war, peppered with mostly excellent characters and downright awesome action. He achieves this in a lean two-hour running time, wasting very little budget and talent.
It’s been over a decade since Peter Jackson‘s King Kong underwhelmed most as Jackson put the iconic character into a bloated adventure spectacle that wasn’t awful, but wasn’t exactly high-quality filmmaking.
I remember really enjoying the film, yet with each re-watch I found less and less of a reason to call it a good movie.
Enter Kong: Skull Island — a film that is full of cool characters, slick filmmaking and a steady rhythm of action that advances the story and entertains with monster battles.
That last part is key, because so many big-budget Hollywood filmmakers struggle with keeping their films lean and rid of excess. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) successfully achieves that healthy medium of providing movie-goers with enough steady action, yet a digestible story that holds up to its own logic.
Kong: Skull Island follows a group of military personnel and scientists as they explore an uncharted island days after America’s withdrawal from the Vietnam war.
Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) is a military man unwilling to let go of war and admit defeat, hoping for that last assignment to prolong his tour, while Bill Randa (John Goodman) is a scientist searching for magic and monsters in one of Earth’s last-discovered places.
They are accompanied by a tracker named James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a photographer named Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and several other scientists and soldiers.
The film follows the team as they attempt to understand Skull Island and the inhabitants that reside both above and below the surface.
It’s a fairly simplistic story, but it works because of the lively characters that fill up the screen. Each one is uniquely their own and provides the film with a sense of feeling well-rounded, yet not too packed. There’s a genuine team vibe that comes across naturally as the film progresses and the characters interact.
Oddly enough, Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson‘s performances are mostly one-note, while John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson manage to do a bit better. Goodman mostly plays an under-the-surface explorer hell-bent on proving his theories and assumptions, while Jackson provides us a with a rage-infused soldier just trying to get his victory, no matter the cost.
It’s great watching the two get a chance to flex their muscles in mostly predictable, but entertaining roles, yet Hiddleston and Larson submit mostly unmoving performances that don’t feel all that necessary, but aren’t exactly the worst on the resume.
The rest of the ensemble helps give the film its tiny individual moments, ranging from Thomas Mann‘s situational comments to John C. Reilly giving the film a much-needed comedic break in between the action and excitement.
Kong: Skull Island is the first movie that truly gets how to present King Kong in all of his almighty glory. Kong isn’t simply a large ape, but a larger-than-life monster that has motives and purpose beyond simply smashing things and beating his chest. Vogt-Roberts’ film doesn’t lean heavily on the romantic side of the character, which I had no problem with at all, but he does a great job giving us something that we haven’t exactly seen before.
Many are discussing this film’s eventual tie-in with the recently-rebooted Godzilla and I’m honestly excited, because WB/Legendary seems to understand why audiences keep coming back to these characters.
I honestly wasn’t as impressed with Godzilla, but Kong: Skull Island is a solid reminder that a director really can make a difference. Jordan Vogt-Roberts has a unique vision that he absolutely displays in Kong: Skull Island. The decision to shoot the film as a period piece adds so much to the film’s look and feel. The story is also effected, but there’s definitely a distinct visual style that is achieved by shooting this as a Vietnam film, outside of simply inserting appropriate songs and nostalgic items.
Kong: Skull Island is one of those must-see films for the big screen. Splurge the extra money for a “monster” screen or a Dolby ATMOS-compatible theater, because you’re going to want to feel the thump of the bass and witness every breath-taking pixel in the largest format possible.