#REVIEW: “KONG: SKULL ISLAND”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
The year is 1973. The Vietnam War has just been abandoned and Watergate is heating up. Senior Monarch agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) uses this to his advantage and receives government approval to put together a team to explore a mythical island in the South Pacific. He has an idea of what he will find, but the team does not – until they get a look of the towering creature called Kong.
It is rare for any modern blockbuster to not feel bloated or excessively drawn out. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts knows this, and thankfully does not let one minute go wasted during Kong: Skull Island. After an intriguing prologue and a masterfully designed opening credit sequence, the Film hits the ground running and does not stop for air until the end credits start. The brisk pacing only intensifies during the action sequences, each one more breathlessly astounding than the next. I would watch the helicopter attack scene teased in the Film’s trailers over and over again if I could. The camera is thrown right into the middle of these chaotic action sequences, capturing spectacular shots that must be seen to be believed.
What really sets Kong: Skull Island apart from the pack is its look. Vogt-Roberts and his team saturate the Film in red, yellow and orange tones, making each scene pop vividly. They even splash the colours into night scenes, using fire and light in extraordinary ways. Much like Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this is a War Film first and foremost, so Vogt-Roberts homages and builds on visual cues from Vietnam War classics like Full Metal Jacket, The Deer Hunter and especially Apocalypse Now. I am still in awe of how stylish and unique the Film looked hours later.
While the Film’s soundtrack is annoyingly “on-the-nose” with its Classic Rock tunes and relies too heavily on slow-motion, Kong: Skull Island’s real wasted potential is in its characters. Nearly every single one is a stock indistinguishable character from any number of Monster or War Movies. They each have moments where they look scared, heroic or genuinely confused. The overwhelmingly talented cast is great at portraying those three looks, but no one seems content to stretch beyond that. The only exception is John C. Reilly, who has a blast dropping one-liners and acting completely bonkers. He soars as the comedic relief, but because he also acts as the Film’s emotional center, he is the only character that gets some form of satisfying arc.
And I would be remiss to not mention the references and nods to elements from the recent remake of Godzilla (which was directed by Rogue One’s Edwards). These moments are not nearly as intrusive as I had imagined, and I remain curious to see how these two goliath super-beings will get to go head-to-head sometime in the near future.
Kong: Skull Island is relentlessly paced and consistently entertaining. What the Film lacks in character development, it more than makes up for in breathless action. Kong looks incredible, and the sheer look of Skull Island herself is spectacular to behold. The simplicity and brilliance of the original 1933 Film has yet to be matched and likely never will. But this Film earns its spot on the same playing field.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release KONG: SKULL ISLAND on Friday, March 10, 2017.