Thursday, March 2, 2017

Kong: Skull Island

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  They should do a Queen Kong movie...just to watch the MRA douches' heads explode.

Kong:  Skull Island – 4 out of 5

I know many will say that a new movie about this gigantic ape shows the unoriginality of Hollywood but, for me, it’s pretty damn amazing that a creature that first appeared on the silver screen in 1933 is still getting adaptations in 2017.  I think that type of staying power is pretty cool—especially when you consider how many of those adaptations and sequels were pretty bad (remember how they literally had to give away copies of Peter Jackson’s version when the whole Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD thing was going down?).  So, how does this latest incarnation of the character that, due to legal reasons, can’t actually be called King Kong?  How is Kong:  Skull Island?  Pretty entertaining, actually!

                                                                                                   Warner Bros. Pictures
Take this picture and imagine instead of roaring, Kong is singing a beautiful

It’s 1973 and the Vietnam War is coming to an end.  During this time, Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) from the secret government organization called Monarch discovers a hidden island.  Randa enlists the help of a career military man named Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), former British Special Air Service man and expert tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a whole military escort for an expedition of the secluded island.  Once there, they discover that monsters are very real and that the island is protected by a large ape that the locals call Kong.  However, a former WWII pilot named Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who was marooned on the island, informs them that Kong isn’t the only creature that stalks the land and that hideous monsters that live below the surface are threatening to come up and terrorize the island’s delicate balance.

                                                                                                  Warner Bros. Pictures
Put John Goodman in literally anything and I'll watch it.

One thing I absolutely loved about this Kong, above other renditions of this wonder of nature, is having this movie take place at the end of the Vietnam War.  The parallels of the military going from fighting in the jungle against the native army that frequently used the environment to their advantage to fighting in another jungle settle where the enemy is literally the environment and now the native army is gigantic monsters fit so well.  Additionally, this allowed Samuel L. Jackson’s character, with his unrelenting desire to destroy Kong and his original wiliness to even go along on this expedition, a tad more meaningful and engaging than if the film took place now.  Finally, having this era as the setting allowed for killer tracks from the rock music selection of this time that only added to the mood setting score the film offered.

                                                                                                   Warner Bros. Pictures
Similar to Goodman, put Samuel L. Jackson in anything and I'll
also watch that!

Another element that I was very impressed with was the special effects.  We’ve come a long way from the days of Kong being a motion captured model and while I do admit that Peter Jackson’s film had some great special effects, I had to say that I was really taken by how life-like they made this gigantic ape appear.  Thanks to a marriage of computer effects and a motion capture performance of Toby Kebbell (who was also a soldier in the film), this new King is able to deliver an emotional performance through body language on par with what has come in the past but also on a level that was never really achievable prior (except Jackson’s film, of course).  This combination made Kong a character in his own right rather than the dangerous potential of just being a piece of the film’s conflict—a pretty much requirement when making a decent Kong film.

                                                                                                   Warner Bros. Pictures
He emotes better than some flesh and blood actors that can speak
actual words!

This film also delivers an amazing cast of big name stars and fantastic character actors.  Actors like John Goodman, John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson all deliver their trademark talent that has made them who they are.  Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and Corey Hawkins also do an excellent job stepping up to the plate and standing toe-to-toe with the headliners—which is no easy feat when you realize that Sam Jackson is acting the hell out of his role as the vengeance seeking Colonel and have John C. Reilly stealing the show on a comedic level with Hank Marlow.  Heck, even the more background characters and people that you know from the moment you first see them are going to get stepped on by Kong bring life to their roles well and make them stand out a bit more than just potential body bag fillers.  For a movie that can easily be written off as “just a monster movie” from that movie snob everyone knows, this feature has a lot of star power in its cast and it uses it very well.

                                                                                                    Warner Bros. Pictures
I still stand firm that there needs to be a P.T. Barnum bio-pic with Reilly
as Barnum.

 Speaking of the cast and characters, the one element I didn’t enjoy about the film was the character development.  While most of the characters are developed well enough that we understood who they are, what is motivating them to do what they are doing (mostly attempting to survive and not get stepped on by a big ape), and the ultimate outcome they hope to achieve (again, most just wanna survive), there are some characters that get no development.  This is expected at times because many of the soldiers and scientists on this mission are just meant to up the body count and be killed by the beasts of Skull Island but there is one person that just seems to hang around and kinda feels like we should have got to know her better.  Actress Jing Tian plays a biologist for Monarch that literally goes the whole movie without any real development or even exploration of who she is.  She’s just there and never shares the same fate as the nameless soldiers.  Everyone else that gets lines but is doomed to probably not survive the mission (actors like John Ortiz, Jason Mitchell, Eugene Cordero, Marc Evan Jackson and more) get some sort of development but Tian’s character is just there hanging around.  It’s really weird.  While this complaint is very noticeable for me, it ultimately wasn’t very distracting because this was still a very entertaining film. 

                                                                                                  Warner Bros. Pictures
Man, what kind of epic burgers can you make with that thing?

                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures
"'Sup?  Naw, I'm cool.  I wanted to end up in these
chains.  I did it on purpose, bro."
The final element that really made it all come together had to have been the action.  Very often kaiju-based features that have these behemoths duking it out ends up taking place at night and, sometimes, in the pouring rain.  This latest adventure with Kong seemed to refuse to do that.  Sure, there’s a night fight that occurs but overwhelming all battles take place out in the day time and they are delivered in a very exciting way and, most of all, in a coherent and visible fashion.  Sometimes grand scale battles like these results in action that can get blurry or just hard to recognize (the Transformers films suffer greatly from this) but Kong never gets this way and it results in pure popcorn action greatness.

                                                                                                    Warner Bros. Pictures
I don't even want to tarnish how badass Reilly looks in this picture
with one of my stupid captions.

I’ll shoot it straight:  I’ve never been a fan of King Kong’s movies.  Sure, I’ll admit that I like the stop-motion work on the first film (because the effort and technical wizardry needed to pull stop-motion off is impressive) and the events on the island are cool but once Kong leaves I’m just not that invested.  This film, however, I found I really enjoyed thanks to the story (staying on the island was a big plus for me), cast, beautiful locales, great action and the setups it delivers for future movies.  Overall, I found Kong:  Skull Island to be a great movie to kick off the summer action blockbuster season!

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