|And a bit like monkey breath?|
The movie is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, a name I didn't recognize at first, but his style I did. He directed The Kings of Summer, a movie that most are less likely to have seen than Kong, but a great movie with a love for nature and an eye for stylish macro shots. That style translates magnificently to this film, and is enhanced to epic proportions. As the steadily dwindling group explores the island we get to explore it too, through the camera's wondering eye. The beauty and the creativity is not what you conventionally see in a monster flick, but with how well it works you'd think it would be.
Vogt-Roberts did not hold back on any visual aspect of the movie -- any. The location shooting and the attention to detail for the era made it almost impossible for me to shake the feeling that I was actually watching a movie from the 70's -- an unexpected but welcome feeling. Of course the special effects were miles better than anything 40 years old could give us, and in fact were a good distance better than what most CGI-heavy flicks crank out these days too. This movie was made to be a visual feast of epic entertainment, and there was no skimping on achieving that goal.
|Every sequence was a new array of colors and shapes and textures and immaculate focusing and sweet music...|
I only have one question: how did they manage to collect this cast? A bunch of them hail from (or will soon join) Marvel movies -- Tom Hiddleston is the cool-and-collected tracker-for-hire, Brie Larson is the spirited war photographer, Samuel L. Jackson is the squad leader, John C. Reilly is oddball scene-stealing highlight of the whole movie, and Shea Whigham, and Toby Kebbell (yes I'm counting Fant4stic) are soldiers. (Kebbell also provided some facial mo-cap for Kong, though the vast majority of Kong was Terry Notary.) Otherwise, there's John Goodman as the expedition instigator, and his scientist colleges Corey Hawkins and Tian Jing. Jason Mitchell and Thomas Mann round out the soldiers with memorable roles. I said it was a big cast! And that's just the people who, if they die, you feel sad for.
The deaths are pretty sad too, in spite of the overwhelmingly fun tone of the film; or maybe because of it, with dramatic contrast. The characters were defined well by all having their little niche or quirk which made them memorable, but they were also underdeveloped in the classic action flick way. It seemed particularly as though Hiddleston and Larson's characters were purposefully being held back -- saving the development for sequels perhaps. Still, they were effortlessly charming together. I was on board with this film since Tom was announced to star, and he didn't let me down.
|Even though he was a little pointless. I think the movie got a few conflicting rewrites. You can almost see the plot that was removed.|
John C. Reilly stole the whole movie of course, was hilarious and simultaneously the backbone of the film's heart, which yes, it did have plenty of for its genre. Another who unexpectedly left a big impression was Toby Kebbell's human role. I've always been interested in his work but was so far unable to properly appreciate it due to disappointing role choices and lots of motion capture parts. Because of how expressive he is, he's great at mo-cap, but that means that without the CGI translation he's even better -- and here he is finally a live-action, well-written, sympathetic character, and thus he has finally turned my head. And he was the only character whose name I learned!
In my favorite scene he comes across Kong at a lake and watches the giant ape take a drink -- the excess water sounding like a waterfall as it pours back into the lake -- and then battle a giant lake-squid and eat it in a humorous manner. And that pretty much sums up the whole movie for me. It's odd, ridiculous, epic and funny, with realistic attention to detail, and there's a bunch of faces in the background who look really good under a macro lens.
|Pretty location, pretty filming, pretty people.|
There were a few aspects that could have been improved without creating an imbalance. The ending was a bit sudden and messy, character's names are nice to know, and whenever the plot strayed from the basic goal it couldn't spend enough time away to satisfy and threads were cut short. But, mostly, the things you'd instinctively think are flaws were really conscious decisions for the sake of the tone and style of the movie. Focusing on character, or going deep into a moral themes or a complex plot is all well and good, but Kong included those things only as far as they didn't detracted from the beautiful, gleeful spectacle -- its priority. And considering that this is a movie about a fantastical island full of jumbo-sized monsters and wacky fantasy creatures that do battle with each other, I feel like the priorities were in the exact right place.