One of the horror genre's "most widely read critics" (Rue Morgue # 68), "an accomplished film journalist" (Comic Buyer's Guide #1535), and the award-winning author of Horror Films of the 1980s (2007), The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007) and Horror Films of the 1970s (2002), John Kenneth Muir, presents his blog on film, television and nostalgia, named one of the Top 100 Film Studies Blog on the Net.
[Editor's Note: Today, we are fortunate to have a second look at Kong: Skull Island here on the blog, and an alternate viewpoint of the film from experienced movie critic Jonas Schwartz. Enjoy!]
Classic: The Good, The Bad and The Beastly, Part I, Kong: Skull Island By Jonas Schwartz
The latest Kong remake is a wild-ride
adventure with exciting visuals and a realistic ginormous monkey.
Unfortunately, it feels merely like a placeholder, a prequel to the big game being
released soon, Godzilla Vs King Kong Vs Mothra Vs Rodan Vs every other creature over
50 feet tall. Therefore, the passion for this story feels stale, a
block piece on the edge of a puzzle, not a full-fleshed film.
During the last days of the Vietnam War, a
secret organization funded by the government journeys to a newly discovered
island in the South Pacific. Randa (John Goodman) believes there are ancient
monsters ruling this island and brings a geologist (Corey Hawkins),
a tracker (Tom
Hiddleston), a war photographer (Brie Larson), and a military
battalion led by a blood thirsty Lieutenant Colonel (Samuel L Jackson) just
looking for a fight. Lucky for him, there's something very large and very
hostile on the island who doesn't appreciate being disturbed.
People pay money to see the beast and in
that way, Kong: Skull Islanddelivers.
Unlike Rick Baker in a furry suit in the 1976 film or the heavily CGI enhanced
zeros and ones of the 2005 film, Kong here never feels fake. The visual effects
artists give the title character the illusion of reality, at least as real as a
104-foot-tall creature can appear. The facial expressions, body hair movement, how
he runs and pounds enemies are all
credible. The other visual effects are
subtle with flying embers, twigs and bugs swimming in the foreground of shots.
The tumultuous year of 1973 has been
strikingly captured by the art direction, production and costume design. The
location supervisors found island spots that look untouched and dangerous. Instead
of the boilerplate songs found in most late '60s/early '70s films, the music
supervisor found some rarer numbers for the soundtrack from The Hollies, Black
Sabbath and The Stooges.
It's not accidental that the long grass
and swamp land of Skull Island resembles Vietnam. The correlations between the
famous war photos of soldiers sneaking through the rice fields of South Vietnam
and the scenes of Samuel L Jackson's men lurking through the fields in the film
are far from subtle. The script finds interesting motivations for the
characters due to the harsh shame of losing the war. Jackson's character goes
full Rambo on Kong because he can't handle losing to another enemy. The script
also tries to draw parallels to today's political chaos with protestors shouting
in the streets of Washington D.C. and Goodman's character stating "Mark my
words, there'll never be a more screwed-up time in Washington.”
The script by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein,
and Derek Connolly has witty dialogue but the story loses an empathetic string
by dropping the bizarre but touching love story between the beast and the
beauty. Larson's quick touch of Kong's cheek and his scooping her up to safety
are sweet but lack the punch that the lump of clay and Fay Wray managed in
1933. Being 140 feet makes for a climb up the Empire State Building less a
feat, but that iconic scene in the '33 film is more special than any of the
non-stop action scenes created here.
Newcomer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts
forms some clever action moments and visuals. One that stands out are the
flashbulbs of a camera going off in the dark as a reminder of Kong's latest
lunch, but the editing is so rapid-fire that all the victims' deaths become
non-descript. One is never sure who died in a past scene until you've taken a
headcount in the next sequence. Because
the brigade separates after the first attack, each cavalry seems to follow the
same marks in their own locations which becomes repetitive and drags down the
pacing. The final action scene between Kong and an ancient beast seems too
reminiscent of Jurassic World with beast versus beast while the humans sit
The acting is never embarrassing but no
one seems to notice others are being pulverized next to them. No sadness or
terror registers on anyone's face. The script gives stars Hiddleston and Larson
little to do, but the always reliable Jackson and Goodman have fun with their
over-the-top roles. John C Reilly steals the film as a loopy former pilot who
had been stranded on the island since the '40s. Manic (who can blame him when
he's had very little companionship for thirty years) and wise (after surviving
a prehistoric danger zone), Reilly rises above the material. He manages to be
both comic relief and the film's heart.
A diverting two hours, Kong:
SkullIsland will whet people's appetite for the main course coming
in several years, and hinted at during the post-credit teaser, but at almost
$20 a pop, films should be more than just hors devours and this film is only a