Kong Skull Island – The MonsterVerse is real
Kong is back! After the 2014 Godzilla there was talk of a MonsterVerse (I hope it will come to include the Pacific Rim movies too) and when they confirmed it they brought in the gorilla force! Kong Skull Island gives us a new origin story for our giant ape, creates the connection for the MonsterVerse through MONARCH (which acts like SHIELD) and sets up the next movie in the Godzilla series (stay after until after the credits, you’re in for a big surprise (if you’re familiar with the Toho monster movies). Long story short, Kong Skull Island is a pretty good movie (different than the classic or the Jackson one), with good directing and cinematography, good music (especially the ’70s songs) and awesome epic monster action.
This compelling, original adventure from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (in his big movie directorial debut) tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong. Storywise, the new movie takes a different direction than the classic one. To make it more possible for Kong to meet Godzilla at some point, its set in the ’70s, right at the end of the Vietnam War. They really took their time to study the effects of war on the soldiers and the power of the media, as they are both still relevant today. So, instead of a filming crew going to an exotic island, we have MONARCH officer Randa (John Goodman) and lt. col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) leading a team of soldiers, scientists and civilians on a recently discovered island (thanks to satellite imagery – nice explanation) with the hopes of finding proof that monsters are real. From there on, we have a pretty linear story, that alternates between action and still moments, between awe and pure monster epicness. And we have good dosage of humor through Hank Marlow (John C. Riley), a WWII soldier stranded on the island.
There aren’t any real plot twists, but, as I said, it does take a different route from the classic story. Instead of Kong falling for the girl, the big gorilla is already a protector (he fights the reptilian monsters known as skull crawlers to stop them from invading the surface) and instead of the humans trying to capture him to put on display, Randa just wants to go home with photos so he can show the world monsters exist. This is where the humans diverge, as Packard, played wonderfully by Jackson, is so disturbed by the war that he no longer has a purpose and finds a new one in killing Kong. It’s smart how they play with his madness, how they show war making humans even more violent than animals. It also has lots of references to the old movies (the 2005 one included). So pay attention, you will see broken chains and other hints.
Since Kong is pretty much a CGI character let’s leave him for the special effects part and focus on the human characters. As I said, Kong Skull Island is different from Godzilla and you can see this right from the start. We don’t have just one solider who is always conveniently where Godzilla is. This time we have a bunch of humans, each with their own thing. John Goodman as the MONARCH agent Randa is nice to see, but sadly we don’t get enough of him. He just represents the agency, introduces us to this whole mythology and then vanishes. Samuel L. Jackson on the other hand is pure gold in this movie. He clearly is at home playing a mad army officer whose struggle with the ending of the Vietnam war affects all the other team members and their meeting with Kong. He comes with the “mothafucker” and his trademark badass attitude. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson, as Conrad, an ex-SAS now tracker and photojournalist Mason Weaver are very bland sadly. They don’t really have any evolution in the movie and seeing as they’re the main characters, that’s a loss. He’s just badass and she’s a hot pacifist photographer who gets on the good side of Kong. There’s no real romance between them, nor between her and the big ape. The creme de la creme of the movie is John C. Riley as an old WWII soldier who survived on the island all this time. He’s funny and crazy and brings some much needed humor in a pretty grim and dark movie.
Now, let’s get to the awesome monsters. Kong is now 30m tall, very big comperd to his previous iterations and as Riley’s character says, he’s still young and growing so we might see him reach 50-70m until he meets Godzilla (which stands at about 100m). He’s big and menacing, but also good. He’s a protector. Unlike the classic Kong, he has a purpose: to stop the skull crawlers from invading the world. The last of his kind, Kong is more badass than before. He’s smart, he knows how to make weapons and use the environment and seeing how he battles the reptilian monsters in Skull Island, he definitely will pose a threat to the King of Monsters. The action in the movie is epic, the cinematography is reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, which director Jordan Vogt-Roberts clearly pays homage to. All in all, from a visual standpoint, the movie is amazing. The music is also very good. Henry Jackman‘s soundtrack is pretty strong on its own, though not very memorable, but its greatly helped by the ’70s rock songs inserted in the movie. I liked that they integrated this naturally, as the army boys have a music system they use to play songs while in battle.
Overall, Kong Skull Island is worthy of carrying the name of the big ape and is definitely a good second movie in this MonsterVerse. Go see it!