Posts Tagged ‘Skull Island’

Kong: Skull Island is the second entry in what is called the Monsterverse, which began with 2014’s Godzilla and will continue into at least two more films. Skull Island is a period piece set in the 1970s. Just as the Vietnam War ended, an American military unit, led by Samuel L Jackson, is assigned to escort a group of scientists to an island that was just discovered via satellite. Skull island is surrounded by a perpetual storm, which explains why the outside world hadn’t found it already.

Kong: Skull Island breaks the basic rule (which I believe the original Kong might have established) of not showing the monster right away. As soon as the expedition gets to Skull Island they encounter Kong. They at least show Kong’s hands first, but the big reveal comes pretty fast. In the original King Kong, the monster doesn’t show up for quite a while. We get time to build up the mystery and tension, as the audience obviously knows there are monsters to be encountered before the film characters do. Kong Skull Island offers none of this.

Not only that, but it spoils what should be a surprise in the plot. The opening scene is actually in 1945. During World War II an American and Japanese pilot have shot each other down and crashed on Skull Island. They’re fighting to the death when Kong arrives. So later in the second act when the Vietnam vets discover an American who’s been living on the island for the past 28 years, it’s not a surprise at all. Granted this plot point was revealed in the trailer too, but still, it should be something of a shock. Even worse, the WWII vet, played by John C. Reilly, is played for laughs. As I’m writing this I think back to the original Predator, I can honestly remember feeling a sense of dread as the soldiers trekked through the jungle, being picked off one by one by the predator. Even though it was Arnold Schwarzenegger, I was still thinking “Arnold, just forget about it, just get on the chopper and go home!” Here on Skull Island, we have another group of soldiers trekking through the jungle, and instead of one killer alien, there’s a whole bunch of big giant monsters running around, and most of the time it’s not even remotely scary.

Further removing itself from the proper tone is the soundtrack, which reminding us that it’s set in the 1970s by having hits of that era playing. While it was great music, and, just as in Suicide Squad, I was perfectly happy to hear Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, cool songs alone don’t save a movie.

One piece of advice writers are given is to start the story as late as possible. It would have worked to start the film with the military unit getting assigned to the island, and the audience would slowly find out what’s going on as the characters do. There’s that scene in the trailer where Samuel L. Jackson points his gun at John Goodman and says something to the effect of “You better tell me what’s going on right now.” By that point in the movie the audience already knows everything Goodman tells him. After the un-needed WWII flashback we get a scene in Washington introducing John Goodman as an agent of Monarch, which is the secret government group that looks for giant monsters. Monarch appeared in the previous Godzilla film, and presumably will be the Monsterverse equivalent to Marvel’s SHIELD. At this point Monarch is considered a joke by most, but Goodman manages to finagle this mission. He does provide some interesting personal backstory to how Monarch came to be, but, in my opinion, this whole scene in Washington could have been cut, and the audience could have learned all of Goodman’s secrets at the same time as Samuel L. Jackson.

There are lots of other giant monsters to see on the island. We don’t get to see dinosaurs, (and I just realized, why not!!!) but there is a giant spider. Giant ants are hinted at but never shown. Kong’s primary antagonists are called Skull Crushers, and they may vaguely remind audiences of something across from Godzilla and Cloverfield.

Interestingly enough, Kong appears to have an ambiguous ending, leaving the audience to wonder if anyone escaped the island or not. However, as the credits roll we learn what happened to the WWII vet. There is the question of, given this is a period piece, how the general public never learned of Skull Island. Late in the movie the characters simply state they’ll never tell anyone, which is a bit to believe.

This issue is partly hinted at in the post-credit scene. Yes by the way there is a post credit scene, which sets up the monster mayhem to come. King Kong vs Godzilla is slated for 2020. Monster fans often speculate on how they will fight when Kong is significantly smaller than Godzilla. Kong Skull Island tells us that Kong is just a baby, so presumably he’ll have grown in the last 40 plus years.

There is some decent cinematography, with imagery that reminds audiences not just of old monster movies, but of Vietnam movies like Apocalypse now etc. The basic story is interesting, and provides some good old fashion monster fun, but overall was disappointing. It’s remarkable that over eighty years later the original King Kong is still the best Kong film.