Kong: Skull Island is the enjoyable second entry into the Legendary movie monster-verse. After the lukewarm reception the gritty Godzilla reboot received back in 2014, the far more upbeat Kong movie is an enjoyable monster mash of humour, satire and action pressed up against the backdrop of the 1970’s. The movie stars James Bond to be Toms Hiddleston, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly in a star-studded cast who are dwarfed by the real star of this flick – Kong himself. This movie is essentially King Kong mashed up with Apocalypse Now – a combination only dreamt of high echelons of monster movie dream land – except now it’s a reality.
First and foremost, this movie has a B-movie feel to it. A secret government group begs for funding, travels to a mystical island surrounded by a storm to find monsters and prove their hypothesis of the “hollow earth theory.” Although this theory is only praised by conspiracy weirdos and tin foil hat wearers, in the context of this feature film it made sense. It has a similar plot to the upcoming Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race, in which entities at the centre of the earth are the real rulers of the world.
The editing of this movie was phenomenal and really added to the cleverness of this movie’s attempts to bring out ‘the B-ness’ inside itself. Weird jump cuts, fast paced and exciting angles and even the use of a POV shot that emulates a First Person Shooter video game (not pandering to a younger audience at all there) looked amazing to see in such a high-profile movie. Stuff like that is usually saved for the cornier and cheaper movies that use these different editing techniques to try to make them stand out. Although at times the over reliance on changing to that FPS style POV, even if it was for a few moments, does distract you considerably.
The main issue that hovered over 2014’s Godzilla more than the overcast skies seen throughout the film was its dull tones. It took itself too seriously for a film about two giant monsters wanting to procreate and another wanting to regain its place as top predator by killing them. It was devoid of humour and putting felt tip pens in your eyes honestly felt more enjoyable at times. Fast forward to the second instalment in 2017, Kong: Skull Island almost feels like a mini reboot in itself as humour and life is abundant in this flick whilst keeping itself grounded and seeming realistic.
Setting the movie just after the end of the Vietnam War was a genius decision. This sort of setting for a Kong movie hasn’t been seen before. It’s a smart decision considering the studio’s original idea was to set this film in 1917, a boring backdrop that’s far too similar to the 1930’s depicted in 2005’s King Kong. By choosing not to have THAT scene where Kong climbs the Empire State building made complete sense. We’ve seen that scene before. Many, many times. Instead, having the gargantuan gorilla take down 12 Huey Helicopters whilst Jimi Hendrix and Creedance Clearwater Revival blares across the jungle was the dream Kong movie we all didn’t realise we wanted to see.
There are too many characters in this movie. Fact. Trying to comprehend who everyone is, where everyone is on the island and what everybody’s motivations are can be mind-numbly mind-boggling. Samuel L. Jackson is an enjoyable antagonist. We see that he dislikes Kong for killing his men in a very easy to understand scene. Unlike most movie villains, making him as generic as possible actually worked here. His motivations are clear and his negative actions moves the plot along nicely. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson’s relationship felt more forced than DC trying to make a superhero franchise (Ouch, burn). Their characters were horribly underdeveloped and just seemed to click because the plot demanded so. Sigh. People come to these movies to see a giant Gorilla beat the crap out of giant lizard things with bad digestive systems. Not tacked on love stories.
Speaking of giant Gorilla’s beating the crap out of giant lizard things with bad digestive systems, did I mention that is in this movie? A lot? No? Well it is…and boy, is it enjoyable. Finally another film taking a leaf out of Pacific Rim’s book of actually showing the action between two fighting monsters/giant robots/aliens etc. For a monster fighting movie, this was tasty morsel after tasty morsel. Every encounter left you satisfied and desperate for more. Again, this makes up for Godzilla’s mistakes and leaves you stuffed from the brilliant buffet of battling beasties on offer.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the easter eggs scattered across this film? Yes, there is an after credit scene and it is very much worth sticking around for – and if you’re a massive Godzilla fan like I am – be very, very excited. As for the rest of this film, a giant octopus that entangles Kong in the lake is actually the Giant Octopus from King Kong vs Godzilla called Oodako. This tiny little nod isn’t the only reference as the giant Water buffalo seen as the group first land on the island is actually the director paying homage to the forest spirit from the Anime Princess Mononoke. The more you know huh?
Despite massively underdeveloped characters that just seem to be forced together like gorgeous hunks of play dough, wasting John Goodman half way through the film (spoiler alert) and basically just being Apocalypse Now with giant gorillas and monsters, this was a fun flick that’ll keep you entertained. It’s funny, satirical (although the cheeky Anti-Trump joke at the start of the movement was so obvious that it really wasn’t funny) and action-packed. Kong: Skull Island is one of the more enjoyable entries to the monster-verse. This movie set out to right the wrongs of the enjoyable yet average 2014 Godzilla movie and it completely achieves this goal.
Would I recommend this movie? Yes. Any monster movie fan or B-movie fan would love this film. Anyone who likes their monster movies a little more serious don’t bother, as this movie is fun and stands out compared to the generic monster movies of today.