Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Awaken the King
Considering how much I love watching Godzilla movies, it might be a surprise for the browser to find no real entries of the monkey kind in these pages. Well, I'll be honest - although I appreciate the original King Kong for what it is and it's great effects (at the very least for the time), I've just never been a Kong fan - I always preferred the big radioactive lizard instead. Well, this one had me scratching my skull thinking that maybe it'd be something I could get into a bit easier than it's predecessors and perhaps I should watch if he's going to be popping up in the next 'zilla movie, so let's spin the classic rock and paint the Island black, tonight we check out Kong: Skull Island.
Right off the bat, there's something that I like more here than before - it's a different Kong story. You know that thing that happens when you watch the Batman movies, and you eventually yell at the screen "Yeah, we know his parents die, he's Batman, get on with it!" Despite really only having two Kong movies to try and retread the same steps, I can't help if that was part of my aversion to the three hour long last entry - well, that and the fact that despite good effects and actors, three hours is way too long for me to be watching a giant monkey movie. Here though, we ditch the old discover and take back to the city to make money and get shot on the big ole skyscraper routine and freshen it up with some somewhat obvious criticism about war and "who the real monster is."
Alright, so that last part isn't something we've not seen constantly, but the fact that it's different from the original story helps make this one feel unique. It also largely sets this up in a style rather reminiscent of the original Godzilla - and yes I know I'm using the english terminology there in reference to it's Japanese version, but it's only fair I don't butcher pronunciations all the time, Although Kong is the main character in a way, he's also very much this thing in the background. He's used to some extent as a metaphor enabler, allowing us to see how sometimes you don't know whose the bad guy or that a bad guy only develops into such when we create them that way - which is largely delivered in a line from one of the soldiers in a more eloquent manner. He shows up and does battle with evil, like some caped crusader, and sometimes the evil just happens to be the guy who dropped the bombs without quite realizing what they were doing.
The human characters get most of the screen time, but it's not always just a potent line or some form of social commentary either. Character building isn't necessarily at the top of it's form here, with honestly the closest thing to an arc is the soldiers eventually coming to terms with the fact that their head guy might just be nuts and their fighting the wrong war. The mysteries of the "tracker" are left a mystery, outside of assumptions we can make from some of his lines, and the man from the opening scene is more like a lost in time traveler whose really just excited about the prospect of going home after learning that regardless of the side, soldiers are just human people that are pretty the same off screen. The nice part of this however is that despite this, none of the characters really come off as annoying or undesirable, except perhaps the head soldier who it at least plays off as the disillusioned soldier rather than flat out making him a bad guy - even if perhaps he can still feel a little boneheaded in his devotion to his path.
Effects work here is great. While you might not be crapping your pants over the photo-real giant monkey on screen, it's easily on par with the more recent American Godzilla film, with some of the environmental scenes being straight up screen saver beautiful. Costumes look as one would expect them too for the soldiers, with the indigenous tribe also playing off in a very natural way. Fine details are put in when it comes to wear and tear, both on the large computer entries and on the soldiers themselves, with scratches and cuts as well as a bit of build up when it comes to mud and grime. There wasn't really any huge scenes while watching that made me think that it looked uncharacteristically worse than the rest of the film - which honestly is more than I can say for some other just as enjoyable AAA titles.
Audio also comes across quite wonderfully. I hear every line I need to hear, even if the line is just a howling creature in the distance. Explosions have some punch to them, and you get a familiar sound on many of the creatures even while the sound department does a nice job of giving it a large quality to it. Actors do a fine job in their roles, even if their roles aren't the most advanced things to exist as mentioned before. I would have expected as much if I had any real knowledge of the actor pool before hand, with the likes of Sam Jackson, Hiddleston, and Goodman all being in it. Surprisingly though, it was John Reilly that I was most impressed with. Honestly, that's probably more because I associate him with stupid comedies (alongside Will Farrel) more than anything else, so it's nice to see he can play out a role that although it does inject some comedy into the movie, also keeps it on a serious level for his character.
There's also little details put into things in the movie that I wouldn't really think were necessary, but certainly am happy to see. As an example, the fact that the giant spider's legs resemble bamboo and blend in with the trees around it is a really nice touch that didn't need to be there but is nice that it was. Every now and then there's a bit of a foreshadowing of events as well, although mostly tame and getting used within minutes of it being set up anyways. Everything also keeps itself moving smoothly, giving you a break now and then but never feeling as though it's completely without purpose and mostly containing the exposition to these moments.
So when it comes down to it, I'd have to say that of all the Kong movies I've seen, this one is probably the one I like the most. It does have some pretty cheesy moments here and there, and the characters can feel pretty flat but the effects are good, the story keeps itself going and is something different than the same old Kong. The soundtrack has a bunch of classic rock songs to get stuck up in my head, and it does a good job keeping me interested with what it's throwing at me. Probably worth checking out particularly if your a fan of giant monsters, but even for someone looking for an action adventure flick they can probably find some enjoyment out of this one. Heck, it even solved my larger complaint with that last Godzilla without actually changing it from being largely person-based.