Monday, March 13, 2017

Review of KONG: SKULL ISLAND: Awesome Ape Action

March 13, 2017

I literally groaned when I first saw the trailer of "Kong: Skull Island." Really? Yet another Kong movie, barely 10 years or so after Peter Jackson's "King Kong" (2005). Then the trailer goes on to show huge lizards and spiders, another groan. I was not really too interested to watch it at first. Surprisingly though, I was hearing positive reviews about this nth remake, I had to go see it for myself.

The film starts with a prologue set in 1944 on a South Pacific island showing two enemy pilots (one American, on Japanese) who had a close encounter with a gigantic ape, the Kong. Then, the action jumps to 1973, Bill Randa (from a secret government organization called Monarch) organizes a team to explore Skull Island, a mysterious uncharted island located in the South Pacific perpetually surrounded by storm clouds. 

Randa's group included his geologist Houston Brooks and biologist San Lin (as geologist). Lt. Col. Preston Packard and his helicopter squadron were assigned as their military escort. An ex-British special forces man James Conrad was hired as tracker. A female anti-war photographer named Mason Weaver was also onboard. They begin their expedition by dropping bombs on the island supposedly to survey the geology of the ground. However, the loud multiple fiery explosions caused an angry Kong to come out and attack them.

As expected, this whole film was indeed a visual effects extravaganza. Young indie director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, whose only film prior to this was a small quiet 2013 Sundance drama called "The Kings of Summer," came out blasting full force with every computer-generated trick in the monster book. He not only had the formidable motion-capture Kong (Terry Notary as the actor behind the ape), but likewise a number of other giant creatures (those ugly reptilian Skullcrawlers, that giant daddy-long-legs spider, that Pokemon-like tree creature, those vicious flying dinosaurs and gentle water buffaloes) to play with.

The actors were very aware they were not really the main focus of this film, playing their characters with hammy delight. Samuel L. Jackson was at his over-acting best as the unstable warfreak Packard. John Goodman had another go as a crazy eccentric old man as Randa. Tom Hiddleston was in full hero-mode, expertly striking model-like poses in his tight t-shirt, even when an explosion already threw him on the ground. Brie Larson had her Oscar Best Actress-like close-up encounters with a trapped water buffalo and of course, Kong himself. John C. Reilly appears midway in the film with an oddly offbeat humorous role.

If you are patient enough to wait after all the end credits have rolled up, you will be rewarded with an extra scene suggesting a sequel/s with Godzilla, Mothra and other giant monsters. There is already a Kong vs. Godzilla being developed for a 2020 showing. 

This film is so formulaic and so over-the-top, yet for some strange reason it was actually quite entertaining. The monster fighting and action sequences were so huge, graphic, crazy and illogical, yet fun to watch. The whole film felt like an exhilarating 4D ride in a theme park, and that was even if we only watched it in 2D. 7/10. 

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