Yo. This film is FUCKING SICK. I was not expecting it to be as awe-inspiring as it was, but it is thrilling, exciting, funny, & even beautiful at times. Really, this is so much more than a cheap blockbuster.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts is in the director’s chair in his blockbuster film debut, with a screenplay by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly following a story by John Gatins & featuring an all star cast of John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston & a whole bunch more.
It’s set in the early seventies just as the end of the Vietnam war is announced, & starts as Senior Official Bill Randa from an organisation called Monarch manages to secure funding for an expedition to a recently discovered island previously uncharted – known as “Skull Island”. He gathers together a team of scientists, military operatives & other individuals to go explore & discover the new island – but he has some hidden motives too.
Basically, it’s King Kong. In the seventies. With Brie Larson. Can it get any better really?
The guy that starts it all is William “Bill” Randa, a senior official in government organisation Monarch who is in charge of the expedition. He’s spent a lot of his life trying to be taken seriously so he can get to this stage – being able to prove himself right. Obviously John Goodman is brilliant: arrogant & proud but also desperate.
He’s joined by Houston Brooks, a young geologist & Yale graduate recruited due to his groundbreaking theories on seismology. Basically he founded & presented a theory about Hollow Earths that few took seriously – all but Randa. He’s ballsy & takes risks without being precarious or straying from who he is. He’s really cool, & played by Corey Hawkins, from Straight Outta Compton & Walking Dead fame.
Of course it’s all good having scientists but they need some muscle & ammo to actually get them through it. This is where Samuel L Jackson’s Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard comes in. He is fresh off an unsatisfactory end to the Vietnam war & jumps at the opportunity to do something new & give his life some meaning. I actually think that this is the characters who has the most too him actually told throughout the film. He’s revengeful & dedicated, & not always necessarily doing what’s best for the team.
He’s joined by a team of soldiers, the main ones consisting of:
– Jack Chapman (played by Toby Kebbel), US Army Major & Packard’s right hand man. He’s manly & strong with a big heart & is constantly writing home to his wife & son.
– Earl Cole (played by Shea Whigham), a seasoned Captain of the Sky Devils with a “very different approach on the mission to everyone else.
– Reg Slivko (played by Thomas Mann), a warrant officer of the Sky Devils. He’s the youngest but he deformity shouldn’t be underestimated, as he’s also the one truest to his own values.
– Reles (Played by Eugene Cordero) is the soldier that knows & shows that his fellow soldiers are his family.
With this team of ammo behind him, Randa then hires expert tracker James Conrad to guide the team on the island. Conrad is played by Tom Hiddleston, who is excellent at playing the bad boy with a good heart type guy. Conrad’s a bit of a mystery as to who he could be & who he has been in his life, but he’s level headed & smart without being overly serious – he’s an explorer. He’s also pretty dangerous which is always fun.
Then, finally, we meet Brie Larson as Mason Weaver. She’s an anti-war photographer up for Life’s Photo of the Year following her study of the war, & she is as curious as she is talented. She’s smart & savvy, badass while vulnerable & has a great eye for a photo as well as what the right thing to do is. She is defiant & trusts her gut, & I am utterly head over heels obsessed with her.
If you have your concerns that Mason will be the typical beautiful blonde that does a lot of screaming & has an admirer in Kong, then there’s no need to worry. She is truly a woman that stands on her own & I love her for it.
The only other female character is Jing Tian as San Lin, a young biologist working for the Monarch organisation. Her part is small but important, she’s smart & assertive.
There’s also John Ortiz as Victor Nieves, a senior Landsat official on the expedition; & Steve Woodward – a cocky, slightly sexist & way privileged scientist heading the Landsat team studying the island. He’s played by Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Marc Evan Jackson (who’s going to look after Cheddar now?).
The final member of the gang, & one of the best characters is John C Reilly’s Marlow, a World War Two veteran who’s been stranded on the island since the forties. He’s a little mad but has actually managed to keep himself pretty sane over the twenty eight years by living with the natives & learning about their culture & the island. It’s him who becomes their guide – & while it is a little classic trope-y that magically someone who knows everything about the island pops up to help the main heroes I can’t help but love it.
Then of course, there’s Kong. We know Kong’s story; he’s huge, last of his kind, & totally thought to be a myth. On the island he is respected & worshipped by the natives, who treat him like a God – their King. Terry Notary plays him in motion capture performance, which of course gives him immense human like qualities, which make him the character he is.
The story is actually decent? Someone took the time to make sure the story was okay??? I’m so shocked???? It’s a really good mix of fun & actually exciting, paying homage to the originals whilst still making something original & I have to say I am impressed. Thought the characters for the most part don’t really have any backstories to them the writing gives us hints, & glimpses of realness to them all to cleverly make them all fleshy characters without having to take the time to explain each one.
There’s a couple of plot holes – like why did they invite a photographer when they knew they were going to have her agree to not ever use any of the photos, but we can let those slide I think.
Can we talk about the range of people in this film? This is a diverse cast, & I am living for it. Sure, characters like San Lin could have had more lines but this is a massive leap from what Hollywood is usually like, & it’s not for the sake of doing it either. Equality isn’t about shoving s few people from every race onto the screen, it’s about recognising talent from everyone & giving them the opportunity to showcase that talent, & it is SO GOOD. Make note Hollywood – this representation really matters, & is one of the reason why this film will be such a success.
Of course, Kong isn’t the only thing living on the island. As well as a village of natives, there’s all types of creatures & at times, monsters. There’s big, really big, peaceful buffalos that stand beside Kong in terms of the good guys; then there’s the really awful octopi, flying bird/ pterodactyl type things, ants the size of trees & of course; the films main big bad – Skullcrawlers. Whilst all of these creatures were created with inspiration drawn from loads of pre-existing material, they really are unique creatures unlike anything else in film (at least that I’ve seen). They’re new & interesting & so so cool.
I love the way this film is shot. Larry Fong is the cinematographer & he really created something beautiful, making every shot feel like it really is a new magical place that nobody really has ever seen before. He makes every shot feel important, & have some significant to it & it’s this dedication that really pays off throughout the entire film. There’s a fluidity to it that makes the whole film seem smooth & connected, whilst also giving an insight into characters that don’t really have any other story behind them.
There’s a couple of sequences that really stand out because of how they were filmed. One of these is the amazing one of James Conrad fighting through green fog in a big battle bit & though yes, it is a little cheesy, it’s totally redeemable because of how cool it looks.
I also love how a lot of the film is seen through Mason’s camera. Not only does this look cool as hell, but it really makes the audience feel like they are the ones seeing it through their own eyes too. It also provides screenshots of the film that again, make it seem more real because they totally look like tourist photographs, & friends on holiday on a new adventure. I love film cameras & work with them when I can, so it was really cool to see that – as well as these photos I think were actually shot on an old black & white film camera from set.
It’s the little things.
The special effects are really wonderful. It’s actually a little difficult to remember that they are effects after all, & that they didn’t just go to this weird island & stumble across these weird creatures. As I mentioned earlier, we also can’t ignore that Kong was achieved through a motion capture performance, & some of the most impressive I’ve seen to date.
Of course the effects wouldn’t be half as impressive if they weren’t set against such an incredible backdrop. Skull Island is almost a character itself, & plays a massive part in the film. It’s all on location in Hawaii, which is already a stunning enough location for the effects layered on top to not look out of place.
One of my favourite elements to the film is all the tributes it features to old King Kong movies, like the ’33 & ’76 one opposed to Peter Jackson’s 2005 take. It really strips it all the way back to the origins where the idea was something fresh & incredible, before it was a classic that isn’t so astounding to modern day audiences.
The location of Hawaii was also use in the 1976 King Kong, but it’s the ’33 classic that Kong: Skull Island takes the most inspiration from. Firstly; John Goodman’s costume almost exactly replicates the one worn by Robert Armstrong’s character in the 1933 King Kong; & then even the design of Kong himself is largely drawn from his thirties incarnation, mixed a little with the Japanese one from the sixties. The newest thing to bring back was the so called “Skullcrawler” monsters, which is something that hadn’t been seen since the two-armed pit lizards featured in the 1933 King Kong.
Somehow, these tie ins to the original films & the seventies setting of the film make it fresh & exciting again, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It gives audiences the same sense of wonder that they original ones did, & I think that was a beautiful thing to do.
They also released a series of vintage inspired posters as well as the official ones to promote the film.
The film’s score was composed by Henry Jackman who, to fit the seventies setting of the film blended loads of stereotypical seventies ‘psychedelic’ style guitars into the score. It’s also full of songs from the time, that are interspersed throughout the film to give it some really fun moments in a kind of Guardian’s of the Galaxy fashion (pulled of way better that Suicide Squad’s).
I thought it was brilliant. It was everything I look for in a expedition/ adventure/ mythical film – magical enough to be something amazing but real enough to make you believe it.
I think everyone will like it. It’s nostalgic in an exciting new light, just unpredictable enough to keep you hooked with action sequences that don’t feel like they’ve just been thrown in to look cool. It’s really cleverly put together, with brilliant performances & great action sequences with real moments filling in all the little gaps. It seems very real, & I really did like it a lot.
Kong should not be underestimated. I went in expecting nothing, & instead had the best time. I rate it very highly compared to other huge blockbusters as of late, & I am very impressed.
Kong: Skull Island is in cinemas now.