“Kong: Skull Island” is not like hammy B-movies of ole. 84 years on the big screen, the legendary beast still reigns supreme in the monster movie arena. Our J.P. reviews the Jordan Vogt-Roberts that stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman and Brie Larson.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Warner Bros. Pictures
Opens wide: Friday, March 10, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language”
Run Time: 118 minutes
The producers of Godzilla reimagine the origins of one the most powerful monster myths of all in “Kong: Skull Island,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures and Tencent Pictures. This compelling, original adventure from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong.
“Kong: Skull Island” stars Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers,” “Thor: The Dark World”), Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), John Goodman (“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Argo”), Oscar winner Brie Larson (“Room,” “Trainwreck”), Jing Tian (“Police Story: Lockdown”), Toby Kebbell (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), John Ortiz (“Steve Jobs”), Corey Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton”), Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”), Shea Whigham (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Thomas Mann (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”), with Terry Notary (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) and Oscar nominee John C. Reilly (“Chicago,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”).
Vogt-Roberts directed the film from a screenplay by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, story by John Gatins. “Kong: Skull Island” is produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, Jon Jashni and Alex Garcia, with Eric McLeod and Edward Cheng serving as executive producers.
The creative behind-the-scenes team included director of photography Larry Fong (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”), production designer Stefan Dechant (supervising art director “True Grit,” “Avatar”), Oscar-nominated editor Richard Pearson (“United 93,” “The Bourne Supremacy”) costume designer Mary Vogt (the “Men in Black” films) and composer Henry Jackman (“Captain America: Civil War”). The team also included Oscar-winning makeup supervisor Bill Corso (“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and supervising stunt coordinator George Cottle (“Interstellar,” “The Dark Knight Rises”). The legendary Kong was brought to life at a whole new scale by Industrial Light & Magic, with two-time Oscar winner Stephen Rosenbaum (“Avatar,” “Forrest Gump”) serving as senior visual effects supervisor, and Oscar-nominee Jeff White (“The Avengers”) as visual effects supervisor.
To fully immerse audiences in the mysterious Skull Island, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his cast and filmmaking team filmed across three continents over six months, capturing its primordial landscapes on Oahu, Hawaii—where filming commenced–on Australia’s Gold Coast, and finally in Vietnam, where filming took place across multiple locations, some of which have never before been seen on film.
Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures and Tencent Pictures present a Legendary Pictures Production, a Jordan Vogt-Roberts Film, “Kong: Skull Island.” The film will be released worldwide in 2D, 3D in select theatres, and IMAX beginning March 10, 2017, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
Among the half baked modern day creature features, “Kong: Skull Island” can hold its own, sticking close to source material yet is revitalized in look and feel. What’s surprising is “Skull Island” doesn’t drag its viewers through another lengthy origins story. Its leaner, more balanced than the 2005 forerunner, the Peter Jackson-helmed “King Kong.” Still this monster mash is able to transport us to a prehistoric land, much like films such as “Mysterious Island” or “The Island at the Top of The World” did way back when. It creates a sense of wonder without clobbering the audience over the head with preconceived notions of grandeur.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts moves the film along with a sense of urgency, while being careful not to out pace character development. He allows for the story to build just enough suspense to keep us reeled in, just before he unleashes gargantuan creatures and frightening combat on a major screen. What Roberts does well is pay homage to the 1933 original “King Kong,” as we’re transported to Kong’s territory, the mysterious jungles of Skull Island. We, the viewers, are wowed by the execution of WWE styled battles between Kong and a giant octopus, or watching spiders the size of buildings stomp the land. Even the way it’s shot provokes a great emotional response to the creature. When he’s swatting down helicopters like mosquitoes, you get up close and personal with the beast. You’re set in the action as the choppers are going down or being slung across the grounds and sky. His expressions are written all over his monstrous face. Just as you see it on the posters, you see it here in the film. You are presented with this enormous silhouette of the brute nearly eclipsing an orange sunset while he faces down an army.
“Kong: Skull Island” is truly a wonderful mix of fantasy and adventure, with gigantic spiders, a squirmy octopus, and a stick bug resembling that of a 50 foot tree. Pterodactyl like birds proves to be mischievous and lethal as they pick off their prey. Kong’s enemy is an ominous looking Dino-lizard, which really doesn’t seem all that creepy looking. Yet the WWE smack down between the two is grueling. Many of the battle sequences come at an inopportune time to catch the audience off guard, which makes for quite the shock at first.
Keeping the film a buzz is the well casted band of actors, who all do their part to drive the movie’s spirit:
- John Goodman, as the somewhat shady expedition expert William Randa, is hell bent on reaching the island by any means necessary. His fiendish attempt to coax a government official into granting him the funds for the mission is a notable moment.
- His partner in crime, geologist Houston Brooks as played by Corey Hawkins, does his darndest to back Randa’s claims that something huge is beneath the Earth. These scenes are reminders of those that took place in “Godzilla,” where scientists with tactile knowledge fervently try to convince the government that some dreadful event is heading our way.
- John C. Reilly steals the shows as Hank Harlow, the WWI veteran who’s been stranded on Skull Island for 28 years. In his introduction you’d believe him to be the kooky war nut that may have lost his marbles, yet he’s the true level headed oracle who gets the crew out of many scuffles and skirmishes.
- Samuel L. Jackson takes the cake in the role of Army Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard. Jackson reverts back to Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab in seeking revenge on Kong for killing his men.
- Tom Hiddleston as the heroic British Special Air Force commander James Conrad puts on a stout performance yet never oversteps his role.
- Brie Larson adds a bit of feistiness with an altruistic outlook in her role of anti-war photojournalist Mason Weaver.
- Last but not least Jing Tian as the young biologist San Lin is mostly there in the background to simply back Houston Brooks’ efforts.
Because I’m such a fan of creature features, I would place “Kong: Skull Island” above others I’ve watched in the past. I’d even go as far as saying that I enjoyed this more so than “Jurassic World.” Eventually, I feel it would even earn its place in the pantheon of Kaiju (Japanese for strange monster) themed movies over time. Over all, this is a creature feature meant to be enjoyed in IMAX 3D.
Spoiler Alert: If you’re savvy enough to have kept track of incidences that happened in 2014’s “Godzilla,” points for you. Be sure to stay in your seats after the credits roll for an Earth shaking sneak peak of creatures you may very well recognize. It would suggest such future crossovers that I’m sure you’ll be itching to see in the near future.