The other day, I saw the new Legendary Pictures monster movie, ‘Kong: Skull Island‘.
First of all, this movie is definitely a step up from Legendary’s 2014 ‘Godzilla‘ movie. ‘Godzilla‘ was a film with little focus on the title monster and a cast of almost entirely boring characters. The film was also way too dark 80% of the time, making it hard to see what was even going on on-screen.
‘Kong‘ is basically the exact opposite of this.
The film takes place in 1973, at the end of the Vietnam war, Bill Randa (John Goodman), agent of the government organisation Monarch, joined by his associate Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), enlist the help of former British SAS Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and the veteran helicopter squadron led by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to join him on an expedition to Skull Island, an until now undiscovered island shrouded by perpetual storm where it is believed that impossible creatures may exist. A number of scientists and an anti-war journalist, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) also join the team on their expedition.
There are many visually striking aspects and moments in this film. For example, when Kong first attacks the group near the beginning of the film, it’s sunset and so there are a lot of shots of Kong silhouetted against the setting sun (similar to the poster above). Besides moments like these, there are often close-ups and extreme close-ups of the characters to show their facial expressions, which the actors help pull off really well.
Kong himself, despite having a larger presence in this film than Godzilla had in his own, doesn’t feel like he takes up too much time, the focus is still very much on the humans stranded on Skull Island, but Kong’s presence is felt a lot stronger when he’s present. Kong is often seen fighting other large monsters on the island in fantastic displays of motion-captured CGI animation and when he is injured, those injuries persist on his body throughout the film and the attention to detail on every little cut, scratch, and wrinkle on Kong’s skin is astounding.
‘Skull Island‘ is also not another lackluster remake of the original film, which means that the story is a bit less predictable, there is no capturing the beast and returning him to America, there is no kidnapping the beautiful damsel and climbing the Empire State building. There is no gunning Kong down and giving the audience some moral to end on. This film is all new and is ready to expand Kong into new situations that could never have been conceived with previous attempts at Kong and it all ties in to something I’ll get into later.
This film deals a lot with aspects of war, how war changes people, how war affects an environment and what-not. Packard is a man that without war, has no purpose. So despite how stupid and impossible it sounds, he decides to go on a campaign to kill Kong, he brings a fight to an environment with its own equilibrium and status quo, he brings bombs and guns into a jungle filled with mostly passive creatures under the guise of killing Kong not because he actually just wants a fight, but because Kong killed his men, which is partially his motivation. Packard is presented well as a less cliched iteration of the typical ‘war man wants to kill everything illogically’ character. Another character in the film is Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a soldier whose plane was shot down in World War II, leaving him stranded on Skull Island for the past 28 years. He want to escape the island, for obvious reasons, and because the last letter he received from his wife before he was shot down was one telling him that he had a son, so he has lived wondering if his family will still be there waiting when he gets back, if he can make it back at all.
Overall, ‘Kong: Skull Island‘ is only the beginning of something much larger, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
‘Kong: Skull Island‘ is in cinemas right now. Watch the trailer here.
*SPOILER FOR KONG: SKULL ISLAND’S AFTER-CREDITS SCENE BELOW*
I honestly don’t want to get too much into spoilers doing these reviews, but I simply can’t not mention the after-credits scene for this movie. For the past couple of years, Legendary Pictures has been setting up a new series of interconnected monster movies, similar to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, called the MonsterVerse.
This movie’s after-credits scene shows Conrad and Weaver being kept in a Monarch facility, when Brooks enters the room and tells them that “Kong is not the only king.”. He then presents them with a number of slides showing cave painting that show a few familiar forms for those that are fans of monster movie genre.
The slides feature Godzilla (who Kong will face up against in 2020’s ‘Godzilla vs Kong‘) as well as several other recognizable silhouettes, those of popular Godzilla monsters Rodan, the giant pterodactyl thing, Mothra, the giant moth, and most exciting to me, King Ghidorah, the three-headed golden dragon. Knowing that these monsters are on their way to our screen is genuinely exciting and I’ll be waiting anxiously for ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters‘ in 2019.