Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island ★★★½

2017 Films Ranked
3.5/5 = I Liked It.

It seems like everyone wants to do a cinematic universe nowadays but this one so far doesn't have any superhero in sight. Instead, we get monsters like King Kong and Godzilla, and so far now that both monsters have had their own solo movies, I can definitely say that I am on board with this cinematic universe because although it's not perfect, it's hard to say no to a film featuring King Kong. And unlike 2014's Godzilla, where we didn't get much of the titular monster, Jordan Vogt-Roberts does not hold back and puts Kong front and centre from the very beginning. Those who came here for a monster movie will get a monster movie, and for the most part it doesn't leave audiences disappointed. Could it have been better? Probably. But it's solid enough popcorn fare and when you consider the amount of decent movies that we've had already this year, 2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year for films indeed...

One of the main influences for Kong: Skull Island looks like Apocalypse Now. There's even a moment with the helicopter seen set to Black Sabbath's Paranoia, in an inspired soundtrack that at times feels a bit overused but doesn't come anywhere close to Suicide Squad's level of overused. It's hard to ignore this film when you have a soundtrack that features the likes of the aforementioned Black Sabbath but also Jefferson Airplane, The Stooges, Creedence Clearwater Revival (twice), David Bowie, The Chambers Brothers and more. It's an exciting mix and when you set it against the backdrop of the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam war, everything just feels all the more awesome. The direction also feels very Zack Synder-y, but in a good way, and I say that as a fan of most of Snyder's films. It wouldn't be a great leap to see Jordan Vogt-Roberts joining the DCEU at some point after this movie if he wants to do more blockbusters after this.

Vogt-Roberts is everything that Colin Trevorrow should have been, a director who can handle the leap from an indie movie to a blockbuster with success at both. Can we just talk for a second about the cast as well? It benefits from a number of well known actors - Samuel L Jackson, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, and more all feature here. Of course due to the attention on the monsters it ultimately feels that some of the characters are pushed to the side as a result, but then to a certain extent, that's a good thing. You're here for the monsters, not the characters, and King Kong does his best. The fact that this movie actually works as a movie and not as something simply designed to set up the inevitable King Kong vs. Godzilla sequel really pays off in its favour as well, as it's a standalone effort saving its universe building for a post-credits sequence that if you're a fan of Godzilla you'll want to stick around for.

Unfortunately, Kong: Skull Island criminally wastes John Goodman and to a slightly lesser extent John C. Reilly. When they're on screen they're easily the best here as unfortunately Hiddleston feels miscast in his role as a former SAS soldier turned mercenary. Goodman deserved much more screentime than what he got, but Reilly's character stays around a little longer and as a result feels like a really welcome addition to the movie. Both of them play slightly unhinged characters, Goodman playing a crazed conspirator whilst Reilly plays a man who has been stranded on Skull Island since World War 2, and it's great to see that they're on form in their brief roles. I'll probably watch both of these guys in literally anything. Brie Larson is someone else who I'll watch in anything and this is another good, if not particularly memorable role for the Room actress and future Captain Marvel, where she plays an anti-war photographer.

The visuals are excellent and are really worth going to the Cinema to see. I kind of wish I watched this at a multiplex rather than the local cheap cinema that I went to but they were still visually impressive, and Kong was brought to life in all his glory and it really showed. The various monsters that we meet on the island are all well designed and the way that the environment plays into the situation is done really well. The location never feels wasted, and the director takes the opportunity to throw anything he can at the audience and its characters.

The film never quite goes into full serious Snyder-mode though because there is a lot of cheese there, but it actually helps. The film is packed full of silly moments that shouldn't really work, particularly the Black Sabbath scene, but we also get to see John C. Reilly fighting monsters with a katana - and they really are pulled off well without going too overboard. The humour at times feels as though it wouldn't look out of place if it was written by the creative team of FX's awesome Fargo, and the end result is an enjoyable popcorn affair that's certainly worth the admission price at the cinema. Don't go in expecting the next Mad Max: Fury Road, as it has plenty of flaws - but Kong: Skull Island should not be overlooked.

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