Saturday, March 11, 2017

Kong: Skull Island

Kong is back, and literally bigger than ever. It's the 1970's, so you know the music is good, and the group of explorers, scientists, and soldiers that go to Skull Island is extra, extra large -- full of red shirts, and people who don't need to survive to the end of the movie. Mayhem is in the air. And it smells delicious.

And a bit like monkey breath?

The movie is directed by , 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 -- is the cool-and-collected tracker-for-hire, is the spirited war photographer, is the squad leader, is oddball scene-stealing highlight of the whole movie, and , and (yes I'm counting Fant4stic) are soldiers. (Kebbell also provided some facial mo-cap for Kong, though the vast majority of Kong was .) Otherwise, there's as the expedition instigator, and his scientist colleges and . and 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.


  1. Sounds really good! I'm looking forward to seeing it. But I'm really curious how it was compares to the 2005 version. Cause the 2005 version blew my mind and I'm not sure if it can get any more epic than that.

    1. It doesn't tops the 2005 Peter Jackson starrer King Kong. But it's damn entertaining. Watch it 👍👍

    2. It's really different from PJ's King Kong! I enjoyed them both differently. It's super epic, but in a unique way that doesn't demand comparison. :) Hope you enjoy!

  2. Superb review Sarah 👌👌
    You are the first one to appreciate the miraculous cast of Kong 😃
    I have been noticing a lot of people complain about the film's mediocrity. Like it doesn't break new grounds. Or it's an old wine in a new bottle.
    I think it was perfect. Even the ending which bothered you was solid imo. I was surprised by its immersive appeal. In spite of being just 2 hour long, it felt much lengthier (in a good way ofcourse). There were so many characters to juggle but everyone got ample amount of time to leave an impression.

    Also, about John C Reilly, I think he was great. He added the emotional appeal but it was L. Jackson who did the best work. As the strong headed Colonel, he was simply phenomenal (and pure evil). It was his villainy which actually competed with Kong rather than the Skullcrawlers 😀

    1. Thanks a bunch! Yeah I noticed a lot of critics hardly mention the cast or characters, but even though they were underdeveloped they were my favorite part! Like you said they all have their moment to shine and make us feel for them. :)

      I wouldn't describe it as groundbreaking, but I think the people who wanted that simply had a different vision from the filmmakers. I think it was 100% what it was meant to be, and I'm glad that was what I wanted too!

      True, I didn't really talk about SLJ... trying to avoid spoilers I guess, but I agree he was excellent! He had some really decent development (I disagree that he was pure evil -- he thought he was doing the right thing!) But yeah he was actually significant next to the monsters!

    2. I agree. It wasn't groundbreaking. But it never intended to be one as well. It delivered what it promised.

      And lol okay. Let's not talk about him (SLJ) then :D

  3. Nice review Sarah! I'm not much of a Kong fan with the older movies, but my sister is really looking forward to this. It's nice to see that this one is getting a lot of good reviews. :D

    1. Thanks Katy! I am too -- I was really expecting more criticism but it turned out really good in a really unexpected way!