Kong: Skull Island
2017. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
Sometimes you know virtually everything there is to know about a film before you view it. Maybe it’s the title, the director’s previous films, the poster, or more often than not, it’s the trailer. Despite these unfortunate truths of the information age, there are occasions where a film can still manage to not only surprise, but entertain you as well. Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island is a breath of fresh air to big explosion, big monster movie madness that has been experiencing a decline over the last year. While there is absolutely nothing that reinvents the prescribed formula for a film like this, what it does, it does very well, signaling not only Vogt-Roberts’ love for the creature feature, but also his talent at using resources in creative ways to present a been there, done that story in a manner that consistently entertains for the duration.
In 1973, Scientists and soldiers set out to explore Skull Island, a place where monsters reputedly roam. Their intrusion not only angers the legendary ape who rules the island, it awakens an ancient evil as well. Tom Hiddleston stars as the tough guy navigator who is in no danger of dying. Brie Larson stars as an activist photographer who is in no danger of dying. They’re supported by a scene stealing John C. Reilly, Samuel L. Jackson playing Samuel L. Jackson, and a regrettably restrained John Goodman. There are also legions of soldiers and scientists who are sacrificed on the altar of “story”. The real star is Kong himself, made possible by unimaginable special effects that are volleyed throughout the film’s run time. Vogt-Roberts uses a perfect soundtrack and puts his trust into the effects team to present a monster movie that is pure abandon without being a guilty pleasure. It’s undeniable decent and even though its plot is paint by numbers, the viewer is having so much counting said numbers, they forget to worry about the endless cliché’s and predictability of the story.
Icon Larry Fong’s patient cinematography builds off of the Apocalypse Now ambrosia and captures the meeting of man and nature with blinding fulminations and intense colors that bloom across the screen in every sequence. Acrid yellow smog and sunglass reflected fire are two impactful visuals that elevate the imagery far beyond the expected B movie trappings. The makeup of tribal natives and the phosphorous gas of a battlefield combine into a potent mixture of untouched history with high powered weaponry, and it is this unholy union that pushes the film above mediocrity. The divide between the two worlds comes crashing down within minutes of the humans’ arrival, but it is the aftermath that is done better than so many of its predecessors. While there are rumors that this may be the first film in a shared cinematic universe, it is extremely clear that Pandora’s Box has been irrevocably opened and Vogt-Roberts embraces this with open arms.
Available now for digital streaming, Kong: Skull Island is an excellent way to spend a night on the couch, especially if you’re in the mood for playful extremity. Large monsters, large explosions, and large guns are what await you in King Kong’s sanctum. The best part is that nothing feels out of place and everything works in concert to achieve the most important goal for a film: to entertain.