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Review: Kong: Skull Island

Back in 1933 audiences around the world had their minds blown. For the running time of King Kong people were able to escape to a place completely unknown to them, in a film that broke ground in more ways than one can count, making Kong king in the land of Hollywood monsters. However, with this being the seventh title featuring the monster it was time for something vastly different. Thankfully, Kong: Skull Island deviates away from the King’s cinematic cliches to bring us a fresh, fun, and visually stunning romp through the jungle that sacrifices character development for pace and style.

It’s 1974 and we’re in the middle of the Cold War. John Goodman plays Bill Randa, a scientist deadset on getting him and his assistant, Houston Brooks (played by Corey Hawkings), to a place called Skull Island. After badgering an old pal in the government, they are cleared for their mission and enlist a military group led by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a tracker/bad ass for hire (Tom Middleton), and a photographer looking for a deeper story (Brie Larson). This 15 minutes of “necessary evil” sets up our adventure on Skull Island, where the team’s plan to drop charges across the island to map it out geographically takes a turn for the worst when they meet Kong.

Jordan Vogt- Roberts brings audiences into a world that is rare in the current landscape of cinema – one that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It operates in a weird space that isn’t quite a B-Movie, or a quality action film, but a beautiful hybrid of both. The goal here is to set up large action set pieces, and getting you there without boring you. The film moves at an almost turbulent pace as the film starts off, and never really slows down. Dan Gilroy’s script is rich with playful banter between the complex team, that manages minute social commentary, but uses this as it’s sole method of character development. This does lead to the human element of the story falling flat, as we move through a large cast of characters that primarily act as monkey fodder and have very little presence. The performances from most of the cast don’t help the cause either, with Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, and John Goodman all falling to the presence of Kong. However, it must be noted that the performances from John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson are show stealing reliefs from the other bland characters. That being said, the script deviates heavily from the traditional King Kong story and it serves for an extremely fresh take on the material which audiences will be thankful for!

Skull Island becomes memorable imagery through heavy colour treatments, rich locales, and extraordinary monster/environment design. Everything about the look of this film has been calculated to create a visual punch, making the large scale/long cut action sequences a marvel. Kong and the monsters pop off screen as they fill the frame with CGI that so incredibly executed that the King’s presence is literally felt. All of this to say that you’ve got to check this out in IMAX!

Finally, the score for this film is primal and mixed in wonderfully with the roars of Kong, and the explosive sound of war in the jungle. It’s a delight to listen to as you marvel at these epic battles. A welcome addition to a film that fires on all pistons when it comes to production.

Escapism is in fine form here. The Apocalypse Now inspired visuals of man against ape against your-worst-nightmares is the type of fantasy that has escaped audiences for far too long. Refreshing in more ways than one, Kong: Skull Island is well executed style over substance.

Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a Toronto based filmmaker and creative mad man. Legend has it that he spent most of his childhood locked away in a cell beta testing Netflix.