Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Film Review

Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs his first major film with ‘Kong: Skull Island’, another reboot of the iconic monster this time set within a different time-period and featuring plenty of vibrant visuals. Resulting in ‘Kong: Skull Island’ being a pretty entertaining monster flick overall, despite the film still being plagued with a range of issues throughout its two-hour runtime.

Shortly after the Vietnam war in 1973, a team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, without knowing it, they soon venture into the domain of the mighty ‘King Kong’, and must fight their way through an onslaught of dangerous creatures to escape the deadly: ‘Skull Island’.

Just from a quick glance at the film, it’s obvious that the film takes heavy inspiration from the war epic: ‘Apocalypse Now’ when it comes to its visuals, which is by no means a bad thing, as ‘Kong: Skull Island’ really embraces its 1970s time-period. Making every set, costume and piece of military equipment fit well within the world the film builds-on, which really gives some style to what could’ve just been your standard action-blockbuster.

The all-star cast of Thomas Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Tian Jing, Thomas Mann, Toby Kebbell and my personal favourite, John C. Reilly, are all decent in their respective roles despite their characters not being given much depth beyond a few short scenes, as due to the enormous size of the cast, many characters end-up becoming nothing more than clichés through their rushed introductions. Aside from Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly as ‘Preston Packard’ and ‘Hank Marlow’ however, as both of their characters receive the most development and play into the film’s main theme of the damage war can have on the mind, which I personally found very interesting and wish the film explored further. Rather than focusing so much on many of the awful comedic moments the film crams into the story, which aside from a few improvised lines from John C. Reilly, fall mostly flat.

The cinematography by Larry Fong is fairly creative throughout the film, as in addition the film’s very ranged colour palette. ‘Kong: Skull Island’ does have an array of visually interesting shots, many of which contain plenty of movement and give the viewer some stunning views of: ‘Skull Island’. The cinematography also lacks many of the shots that made the ‘Godzilla’ remake from 2014 so impressive as a creature-feature, that being shots that display the true scale of: ‘Kong’, yet the lack of these shots may also be due to the ‘Kong’s ever-changing size, which did begin to irritate me after a while, despite ‘Kong’ still manging to feel pretty imposing and powerful throughout the film.

The original score by Henry Jackman does help to make-up for this however, it being of his better scores in my opinion. As throughout the narrative, the soundtrack always adds to the adventurous tone of the film, utilising large tribal drums to give each character’s confrontation with ‘Kong’ genuine weight. The film also uses a number of classic songs from the 70s to further push the film’s time-period, and whilst this does sometimes work effectively, with an early helicopter scene featuring the iconic: ‘Fortunate Son’ being the most memorable. It can also feel very forced at points, mostly due to the sheer amount of songs featured within the film.

One of the film’s best aspects, and most likely the main thing most viewers will gravitate towards when it comes to ‘Kong: Skull Island’, is its action scenes. As throughout the story, the film constantly throws its characters into plenty of intense encounters with the terrifying (and equalling unique) creatures of the island, and whilst the film does have a few too many scenes which feel overly-cheesy due to an overreliance on slow-motion. Each action set-piece is entertaining in its own way, usually making effective use of each monster’s various abilities and their surrounding locations. My personal favourite definitely being the sinister and brilliantly designed: ‘Skullcrawlers’, ‘Kong’s main adversaries. All of these creatures are obviously displayed through the film’s CG effects, which are decent enough throughout the runtime, yet certainly aren’t flawless.

Overall, ‘Kong Skull Island’ is pretty enjoyable, as whilst filled with a variety of problems, mainly in regards to the film’s weak characterisation and fairly simplistic story, the film still manages to be exciting through its fantastic use of CG effects and thrilling action scenes, all backed-up by a great original score and a constructive use of the 1970s time-period. A low 7/10 for: ‘Kong’, although undeniably in need of some improvement, I feel you can still get something out of this one.

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