Saturday, March 11, 2017

Movie Review #581: "Kong: Skull Island" (2017)

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 0 minutes
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Government funded scientists are escorted by the military for an expedition mission to the uncharted Skull Island, which has recently been found on satellite imaging. Upon arriving, after setting off seismic charges, they draw out a giant ape-like creature known as Kong, who wreaks havoc on the group. Kong, however, isn't the only dangerous thing on this mysterious island. 

"Kong: Skull Island" is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, whose only other theatrical release is the coming-of-age film "The Kings of Summer." This movie takes place in 1973 as two scientists, Bill Randa and Houston Brooks, played by John Goodman and Corey Hawkins, who are working for a government agency known as Monarch, get funding for an expedition to the uncharted Skull Island. Joining them are tracker James Conrad, played by Tom Hiddleston, anti-war photographer Mason Weaver, played by Oscar winner Queen Brie Larson, as well as fellow scientists San, played by Tian Jing, and Victor Nieves, played by John Ortiz. Escorting this team to the island are a troop of military men led by Colonel Packard, played Samuel L. Jackson; these soldiers include the likes of Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Eugene Cordero, and Toby Kebbell, who also does the motion capture for Kong himself. Finally, rounding out the cast is John C. Reilly, who plays Lt. Hank Marlow.

"Kong: Skull Island" is not a remake of the "King Kong" from 1933, 1976, or 2005. This film is a new take on the classic cinematic character and is in no way connected to these other incarnations. This version of the character of Kong is much, much more physically imposing and is larger than any other version of the giant ape, and not by a little, but by a massive amount. The Kong here isn't just a giant gorilla, but a giant gorilla-like creature with much more human body ratios. Unlike other "King Kong" movies, which took their time getting to the fearsome creature, "Skull Island" wastes no time in showing off its titular being as he appears within the first few minutes of screen time. He is almost immediately shown once upon the human characters arrive at Skull Island as well, and has a lot of screen time from then on. He makes his presence known in a big way with a big tree...and long arms...and a humongous roar...and gigantic teeth...

We are pleased to say this is an exciting, fun action adventure giant monster movie that gives the audience everything they could hope for when seeing a film such as this. We watch Kong regularly fight several of Skull Island's inhabitants, and though he is larger than almost all of them, there are a few occasions when he is nearly outmatched in battle. We see this ginormous character thwap away boulders and uproot huge trees in one fell swoop, batting helicopters out of the sky like they are not even moving. The digital effects are sumptuous, much more pleasing than the majority of what we saw in last year's "The Legend of Tarzan." We have heard some complaints about a lack of character development for the humans in this film, and while there may be general outlines of each character, their motivations, why they are the way they are, and why they do what they do remain clear to us throughout the film. Some actors get a lot more to do than other, which is a shame because Larson's Mason Weaver could have had a much bigger character arc, but when she is on screen, she is fearless and incredible. Hiddleston is great as the broad-shouldered, suave but gruff James Conrad, tracker supreme. Jackson's Colonel Packard would do anything to keep the men in his unit safe, and will stop at nothing to exact revenge should he need to do so. Reilly's Hank Marlow, well, we can't say much about his character, but we freakin' loved his role here. We must keep in mind, the humans are not the stars of this show. It isn't called "James Conrad: Skull Island," or "Mason Weaver: Skull Island," it's called "Kong: Skull Island," and he is the character whose development matters most.

By the end of "Kong: Skull Island," we seem to fully understand Kong and really know what type of creature he is. He is not a mindless killing machine, and though the characters and motivations of this incarnation of this classic character are changed, we really enjoy the new directions Jordan Vogt-Roberts and screenplay writers Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly have gone to breathe new life into this semi-frequently told story. It's not the type of film that really necessitates a hell of a lot of thought, but if you think you'd like to watch a colossal ape-like creature go toe-to-toe (or in some cases paw-to-claw) with other mammoth, behemoth beings, this is definitely the movie for you. It is a thrilling ride that has tons of excitement and even a few eye-widening, mouth-gaping ones. We had an absolute blast watching this blockbuster extravaganza. 2017 is getting off to a much better start than 2016 did.


My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~78%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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