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article imageReview: ‘Kong: Skull Island’ gives the king due respect Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 10, 2017 in Entertainment
‘Kong: Skull Island’ is the first film in a series of pictures that will reboot the Kaiju genre for a new generation of CGI-addicts.
Before CGI and other technologies existed, filmmakers still sought ways to make the monsters of their imaginations a reality on the big screen. Thus, early creature-based narratives, such as King Kong and Clash of the Titans, were created using stop-motion animation and, later, animatronics were used. Obviously there were limitations to what was possible, particularly regarding the design’s interaction with the actors and sets, but they accomplished a lot with what they had at the time. However, technological advancements have all but made this practical art form archaic. Now that it seems simpler to make these types of movies, many of them have been made again (and in some cases, again and again). Kong: Skull Island is the latest depiction of the colossal ape that first captured audience’s attentions in 1933.
Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks’ (Corey Hawkins) Project Monarch has a single, improbable purpose: to uncover the existence of giant, primordial beasts on Earth. And on the eve of the end of the Vietnam War, they think they’ve finally found their “Land that Time Forgot”: Skull Island (which is actually shaped like Sloth’s head from The Goonies). Recruiting a military escort led by Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a professional tracker and former captain of the British army, and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a wartime photographer, they set off to prove monsters exist. Unfortunately they are entirely unprepared for what they actually encounter on that rock and are confused by which giant monster actually poses a threat.
Social commentary is not uncommon in the giant monster genre; however, there is an art to making it somewhat subtler. The message that the Vietnam War was a mistake is so clichéd and obvious, viewers may be justified in feeling somewhat insulted. On the other hand, widespread opinion has generally been that no one should have to think too hard at one of these films; and if that’s the case, filmmakers succeeded. Still, it could have been slightly less hit-you-over-the-head. The parallels between the documented war images and what occurs on Skull Island are unmistakeable, as is the allegory of Kong protecting his territory from foreign invaders.
Viewers’ introduction to Kong is evocative of his clash with the fighter planes in the first film — except the giant ape is on his own turf and has terrific eye-hand coordination. The helicopters never stood a chance. The appearance of the giant lizard creatures that terrorize the island immediately suggest a Kaiju-like showdown is on the horizon, which turns out to be an entirely appropriate conclusion for the film and the direction of the franchise (stay in your seat for a post-credit sequence that explains everything). The monster-on-monster violence is spectacular, and equally reminiscent of a National Geographic video and a SyFy monster movie with a larger effects budget.
It’s difficult to imagine such a broad range of actors coming together for this type of film, but the eclectic group of characters is impeccably cast. Goodman is akin to a conspiracy theorist convinced he’s just found proof his crazy idea could be correct. Hiddleston doesn’t have to fake an American accent and gets to play the sane hero. Larson is the token female character meant to infuse the story with empathy since Mason serves as the voice of the disenfranchised and wants to understand Kong rather than just kill him. It’s evident Jackson was selected because his “any war is a good war” character also has a rallying monologue and several one-liners simply meant for the actor. Finally, John C. Reilly’s portrayal of a man stranded on the island for nearly 30 years is flawless since he’s perfectly suited to deliver the character’s stir-crazy dialogue.
The soundtrack is packed with period-appropriate rock classics, kicking off with “Time has Come Today” and “White Rabbit” to give audiences a taste of what’s to come. The army-issue boombox blasts Black Sabbath from the choppers, while a surviving player provides an anthem for their calamity on the ground. The familiar music serves as another reminder of the time period and connects it to the Vietnam War movies that came before — particularly Apocalypse Now, from which it clearly draws inspiration and mimics iconic scenes.
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson
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