Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island

Synopsis: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden

In Joseph Conrad’s novella, “Heart of Darkness”, a man named Marlow narrates a story about a voyage up the Congo River to the Congo Free State. Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic “Apocalypse Now”, is the film based off of Conrad’s novella.  Pulling tribute from those classic pieces of art, Director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, gives us Kong: Skull Island, a film that takes place right after the United States pulls their troops out of Vietnam and features characters named “Conrad”, played by Tom Hiddleston and “Marlow”, played by John C. Reilly, who by the 3rd act find themselves wading down a river to freedom.  As you watch Kong: Skull Island, I want you to enjoy that little nugget of depth and symbolism and store it in the back of your head because that’s about as deep and symbolic as it gets.  Skull Island is a what happens when you take classic Sci-fi camp with a B-movie mentality and throw a $185 million dollar budget and multiple academy award nominated actors at it. Skull Island does not pretend to dazzle us with a great script or some sort of underlying themes. It just kicks you right in the nuts from the word go with action and special effects. A perfect night out at the movies.

At first I thought to myself, why cast all these amazing actors just to recite lines like, “Is that a monkey?” or “Monsters are real.”, when any old mediocre cast could have produced a similar performance. But then I realized that part of the charm was the preposterous idea of having world-class actors with immense talent being chased around by a giant primate . It’s similar to Jim Abrahams and the Zucker Brothers casting Leslie Neilson to star in their screw-ball comedy classic “Airplane”. Neilson at the time was only acting in serious and dramatic film.  So if you think about the casting in that way, it seems to work.  As Skull Island begins to unfold “Bill Randa”,  played by John Goodman is a former soldier and now member of an Area 51-esque secret government agency that wishes to explore a newly discovered island in the Pacific that is surrounded by a perpetual tropical storm.  In order to achieve this mission, Randa, recruits Preston Packard, played by Samuel L. Jackson, a Vietnam officer who is none to pleased that the United States is pulling out of the war and is in need of carrying out one last mission.  Needing a tracker to help scout the island, Randa, monetarily acquires the services of British Special Forces agent James Conrad, played by Tom Hiddleston. Throw in Time Magazine award-winning photographer “Mason Weaver”, played by Brie Larson and the stage is set to explore Skull Island.

A Spielbergian, if you will, moment graces the screen as military helicopters transcend through the perpetual storms of Skull Island and memories creep back of the moment we first got when the characters of Jurassic Park first laid eyes on the beautiful landscapes of Isla Nublar. Those characters as well as these news one gaze in wide wonder as they do not know the terrors that lie below.  Skull Island is a great action ride with special effects that will compete with any recent major motion picture roller coaster ride. I was however, a little perturbed by the lack of any strong or deep female characters. Brie Larson is a year removed from winning an Oscar in the 2015 masterpiece “Room”, yet her character is but an afterthought through the first two acts. In fact, her biggest assets to Skull Island throughout much of the movie lie beneath her torn and tattered tank top as she hurdles the obstacles thrown at the group that is making its way to the rally rescue point. However by act three, Larson is well utilized in typical Kong fashion when her character eventually has an abrupt but effective imprinting encounter with the beast Kong himself and winds up in the damsel in distress situation that we all know too well. The creatures of Skull Island, some new, some old are all well conceived and brought to life by incredible CGI.  The CGI is so effective that I will give a warning to anyone who has an irrational fear of Sky Scraper length spiders to take a pass on Skull Island. This film might not be for you. Skull Island’s main Antagonist is portrayed by the “Skull Crawlers”, Ancient subterranean beings that pose the only threat to our beastly hero Kong and sport a nickname given by Reilly’s comedic scene stealing character “Marlow.  The violent deaths pile up by the masses as our human intruders to Skull Island make their way to safety and an inevitable final battle between Kong and the leader of the Skull Crawlers.  A battle that rivals and possibly beats the T-Rex scene in Peter Jackson’s 2005, “King Kong.”  With Kong’s emotional side limited, Skull Island serves as the most violent and relentless Kong movie to date and by the movie’s end credits you will have received all your required evoked emotions from this action blockbuster event.  I give Skull Island 3 1/2 out of 5 stars and highly recommend a theatrical viewing.