Review: 'Kong: Skull Island' is a spectacular showcase

Marcus Goh
·Contributor
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

Secret ending? YES

Running time: 118 minutes (~2 hours)

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

“Kong: Skull Island” is an American monster film, the reboot of the “King Kong” franchise and the second instalment in the “MonsterVerse”.

It sees a group of explorers arriving on Skull Island in the 1970s to learn more about a giant ape, Kong. However, they discover that the island is home to horrors far worse than they could ever have imagined.

“Kong: Skull Island” is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, with a story and screenplay by Dan Gilroy. Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly are also credited for the screenplay, and John Gatins is also credited for the story. It stars Tom Hiddleston (James Conrad), Samuel L. Jackson (Preston Packard), John Goodman (William “Bill” Randa), Brie Larson (Mason Weaver), Jing Tian (San Lin), Toby Kebbell (Jack Chapman), John Ortiz (Victor Nieves), Corey Hawkins (Houston Brooks), Jason Mitchell (Glenn Mills), Shea Whigham (Earl Cole), Thomas Mann (Reg Slivko), Terry Notary (motion capture for King Kong), and John C. Reilly (Hank Marlow). It is rated PG-13.

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

If you’re not sure what the “MonsterVerse” is, think of it as a concept similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe, except that it’s for kaiju (giant monsters). After all, if watching super-powered beings duke it out is cathartic, the battles of building-sized monsters would be even more so. “Kong: Skull Island” is much, much better than the first instalment (2014’s “Godzilla”), and brings fresh hope that we will see a spectacular battle between those two titans in the future.

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

Highlights

Creepy, insane monsters

As alluded to in the plot synopsis, Kong is not the only creature that lurks on the island. Several other beings that are nightmare fuel ambush our heroes at every turn, making their trek on the island a literal Dungeons & Dragons adventure. In fact, it has gone on to inspire several locations in the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. Things that fly, stalk, and masquerade as everyday objects beset our poor characters, who have no idea what they’re in for on Skull island.

And watching Kong fight them is so much glorious fun.

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

Gripping pace

For a monster movie that’s really about a bunch of explorers trying not to die on an island of horrors, “Kong: Skull Island” has fantastic pacing. It doesn’t just use jump scares to keep audiences on their toes. The film uses several different techniques to emphasise the lethality of the primitive fauna on the island, highlighting the fact that the characters are never safe. It’s only after the credits start rolling that you finally feel that the survivors are well and truly safe.

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

The changing perspectives of Kong

Although Kong’s actual character never changes, it’s fascinating to see how the characters’ attitudes to him change over the course of the film. From a mindless machine of destruction to a protector of the weak, the unfolding exposition helps give depth to the giant ape. The appearance of other, more devious monsters certainly helps too.

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

Letdowns

Samuel L. Jackson hams it up

There’s good hammy and bad hammy, and Samuel L. Jackson does the latter in this film. His lines are downright awful, and he delivers them in such a horribly exaggerated fashion that they might as well have put a drawn caricature of him in the film. It’s arguable whether it’s an issue of performance or direction, but the end product is just a silly old soldier ranting at a giant ape.

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

The past within the past

“Kong: Skull Island” is set in the 1970s, which takes a little while to get used to, seeing as which they’re on an island for most of the film. Midway through the movie, they have an encounter that’s related to World War II. From the point of view of the audience, it’s not easy to differentiate the 70s from the World War II-era on a deserted island. It’s an awkward, cumbersome plot point that doesn’t seem to serve a positive purpose.

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

“Kong: Skull Island” is a spectacular showcase of giant monsters fighting.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this more than once? No.

Score: 3.9/5

“Kong: Skull Island” opens in cinemas:
– 9 March, 2017 (Singapore)
– 9 March, 2017 (Philippines)

Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)
Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros Pictures)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for Police & Thief, Incredible Tales, Crimewatch, and Point of Entry. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.