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Kong: Skull Island is the second film the Legendary Pictures Monster-Verse following from 2014’s Godzilla. Godzilla: King of the Monsters will be released next year and everything will combinate with Godzilla vs. King Kong in 2020. About time I say. I honestly can’t wait to see these two heavyweights battle it out on the big screen once again. Enough time has passed for this to finally happen.
This film sees a group of soldiers and scientists to investigate an uncharted island that has been found known only as ‘Skull Island’. No one knows what to expect from this place, other than the unexpected. Of course, once they get there, there’s all these monsters and a big giant ape known by the locals as ‘Kong’.
I grew up watching all these monster movies. My earliest memories were of watching the 1970s King Kong remake with Jeff Bridges, the one where Kong climbs one of the Twin Towers instead of the Empire State Building as they were the tallest buildings in the world at that time. I also remember watching the 2005 Peter Jackson remake and pushing my bladder to the limit because the film when on for an absolute age! I even loved King Kong vs. Godzilla. It wasn’t great. Godzilla doing that dropkick whiles sliding on his tail was something else. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine.
For Skull Island, I don’t know how to rate this film. I did enjoy it, I’m even considering going to see it again in fact. It was a fun movie, but it’s properly not for everyone. King Kong is one of those legendary monsters that people hold in high regard. The same could be said for Godzilla, Jaws, and all the rest. The 1970s and 2005 remakes really paid tribute to the original 1930s film, and rightly so because that film broke new ground. Arguably one of the greatest and most important movies ever made. Even if you didn’t like those movies you could tell that they treated it as if it were important and that they had to get right. This one doesn’t. They have a lot of fun with it and doesn’t take it seriously. Everybody is monkeying around!! They make it their own and they deserve credit for that.
As mentioned, the best purpose this movie serves is to reboot Kong so he can fight Godzilla in this new shared monster universe. It’s no secret that all these movies that are coming up are connected, and why not? If it can work for Marvel, why can’t it work for these monster films? On a personal note, I really want to see a movie universe involving all the classic Universal Monsters. Guys like Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster, and The Werewolf. That would be mint! It’s about time they did Godzilla vs. King Kong. I’m going bananas for it.
The time period for Skull Island is set in the 70s, the Vietnam era. Add Kong into the mix, and there really is some gorilla warfare going on! The opening of the film takes place in The Second World War 2 (Simpsons reference, yo) so Kong appears in the 40s but the Godzilla reboot is set in the present day, so I assume that by the time Kong fights Godzilla in 2020 it’s going to take place 80 years later. In short – Kong is really old. Then again, Godzilla is prehistoric. Who cares, let these bad boys have a punch up. Put these old guys in the main event of WrestleMania (hold up, we’ve already got Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar)
I love the setting. The jungles, wastelands, and sunsets give Skull Island a signature. There are times where it reminded me of Predator. This film is loaded with top class cinematography and phenomenal action scenes of Kong fighting with other monsters. The two that stick out most is when he choke-slams this lizard and then crushes its skull by stamping on it, the other is when he kills this octopus-like creature, again by stamping on it, and eats its tentacles like they were spaghetti. It looks awesome. There’s this other great shot where Kong is lit up by the sun and it’s dazzling on the eyes.
The human characters in this film just felt like filler. There all fine, everyone does a decent job but they’re kind of stock. There isn’t much to them, nothing to really get invest in. I don’t love nor hate any of them. There are no real villain characters that you want to see Kong go ape on, nor is there anyone that you get concerned about. Tom Hiddlestone proves to be the star of the show. He’s a damn good actor and he continues to prove that here. Brie Larson just takes photos. She’s bland as hell.
One of the biggest draws about this film for me was the inclusion of Samuel L Jackson and John Goodman, two of my favourite actors. They have this commanding presence, no matter what film they’re in. They own every scene that they are in with minimum effort. Samuel L Jackson’s character is the closest you’ll get to a villain. Early on in the movie he has a moment in a phone booth where he gets some orders and he gets all giddy with excitement. He’s truly at home whenever he’s on the battlefield. He has a vendetta against Kong after he kills his platoon. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Jackson is watching Kong attacking all these helicopters whiles everyone is running in fear from him. The blaze of fire, dead bodies, and wreckages of the choppers makes this a damn good visual. Without even uttering a word you can sense the level of hate he has for Kong. He hates every ape he sees, from chimpan-A to chimpanzee!! They’ll never make a monkey out of him!!! The plot of the film centres around these guys getting off the island. Jackson’s anger towards Kong ends up throwing a monkey wrench into the works. Also, Jackson and Hiddlestone worked together on the Avengers as Nick Fury and Loki respectively. The roles are reversed with Hiddlestone as the hero and Jackson as the villain (well, the closest we’ll get to a villain). It’s the best double turn since Bret & Austin at WrestleMania 13.
John C. Riley is the real oddball character here. It feels out of place having him in this film. Much like how Stephen Merchant’s in Logan or Jack Black in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Unlike most characters, he has a backstory. He was stranded on the island back in the 1940s with a Japanese soldier. He’s the comic relief of the film, and it makes sense because he’s been on this island for 28 years. You can see why he’s round the bend after spending so long without knowing what’s going on back home. He even asks Tom Hiddlestone if they’ve won the war. The funny parts are funny, and it’s all down to John.
The reason we come to see this is movie is because of King Kong. This version of Kong is unlike any other. It’s like what Ben Affleck is to Batman. He’s the biggest, toughest Kong we’ve ever seen. His early presence establishes that he isn’t going to go down easily. He’s going to have to fight Godzilla eventually so it’s important to book him strong from the get-go. No good having him go down easily after kicking him square in the monkey nuts, right? I like how he stands upright like a human and less like a gorilla. They make him out to be more like a made up ape monster if you will. It’s a nice reinvention of the character. They are missing elements that make Kong a sympathetic character but I think deep down inside that he’s the same Kong you know and love but you don’t see much of his personality. Perhaps they’ll explore that side of his character in a future film.
I love the soundtrack. It’s full of tunes from the late 60s/ early 70s, just to remind you of the time-period. A friend mentioned that it reminded him of Forest Gump – I agree with him. I just loved hearing these songs, especially ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath. Hearing that song blasting from the digital sound speakers in my local cinema was kick ass. It sounds so damn good. Words can’t describe how good it really was.
There is a post-credit scene. I won’t say what it is other than it got a great reaction out of me and it sets up this monster universe perfectly. It IS worth staying back for.
Skull Island is an entertaining monster movie that was a lot of fun, never boring, didn’t have any dragging moments, and it makes full usage of the two-hour running time.
I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to what this monster universe have in store.
Rating: **** (Champion)