Friday, March 10, 2017

Kong: Skull Island Review

We now live in a day of cinematic universes. Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe being so successful, everyone is trying to copy that formula to create their own cinematic universes. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. The movie industry is a business and the purpose of a business is to make money. When you see something that works, you do your best to replicate that to find success on your own. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Personally I think crossover movie events are fun, if done right. My big problem is that sometimes studios of late have been so focused at setting up a cinematic universe that they forget to make a good movie. The reason that Marvel has found so much success is that they were patient and focused on making one good movie at a time before bringing everyone together in "The Avengers." That's how it should be done. And if we do it right, I'm down for it happening. Our most recent continuation of an attempted cinematic universe comes with the King Kong side of things in the King Kong and Godzilla cinematic universe which started with the 2014 Gareth Edwards "Godzilla" remake, a movie that I really enjoyed. So I was excited to see what they had up their sleeves with everyone's favorite giant ape, King Kong!

King Kong is a character that first showed up in the 1933 classic "King Kong" and has since made his way to various forms of media since, including several different movies and remakes throughout the years, the most recent being the 2005 remake by Peter Jackson. How does this movie hold up to all the previous King Kong material? Well, I'll let you be the judge of that. I wasn't expecting it to live up to any previous movie. I just wanted to see a fun movie with a giant ape wreaking havoc when some dumb Americans decided to trespass on his island. As far as expectations go, I went in not sure what to think. I loved the first trailer. I didn't like the second trailer. I heard mostly negative things from the YouTube critics I subscribe to, but the movie was certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes despite all of that (79 percent currently with 195 reviews counted), so there is apparently some sort of disconnect. But that's exactly what happened with the 2014 "Godzilla" and I landed on the positive side of that train, so I still had plenty of hope despite bracing for potential disappointment. Turns out I had quite a bit of fun with this iteration of King Kong. It has it's fair share of flaws, but it's a perfect movie to just turn off your brain and enjoy. Your typical summer blockbuster. Released in March.

The biggest complaint I've heard about this movie is that, while the scenes with Kong are a lot of fun, the movie spends most of the time with its human characters, who are not very interesting. So in other words, the 2014 "Godzilla" debate all over again. People want their "Pacific Rim" style of movie where 95 percent of it is just giant monsters fighting, forgetting that the best monster movies save the big reveal for the second half of the movie. Sure, Godzilla didn't show up until the end of the movie, but other monsters did show up early and the movie spent most of the time building up the terror and panic before delivering an epic finale. It worked. I was kind of expecting that again, but actually Kong shows up quite a bit in this movie. He's in the opening scene. He's there to attack the helicopters when they first arrive. He's there at various moments on their journey through the island. And he's also there for another epic finale. So I don't get what the complaint there is. But yes, we do spend plenty of time with our humans and I do agree that the humans have to be interesting or else there isn't much of a movie. I actually liked our human characters in "Godzilla." Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did a great job in that. And, despite what everyone else is saying, I didn't hate our humans in this movie either.

I will admit that I was a bit bored during the setup. That being the events between our opening scene and our arrival on the island. Because that opening scene is pretty great. And the arrival on the island is also pretty great. In between that, though, not so much. John Goodman is obsessed that monsters exist and no one believes him when he claims he found a mythical island that he wants to explore, but he gets support anyways for some reason. They find Loki in a bar and for some reason decide that he needs to be their guide. Brie Larson, our future Captain Marvel, is a photographer that is along for the ride for some reason. Then they are given a military escort to tag along that is led by the extremely stubborn, stuck-up military commander commander in Samuel L. Jackson, aka Nick Fury. So yeah, we have a group of random people led by some Avengers characters and John Goodman, none of which have much depth to them or much of a background that is explored. I don't like simply going with the flow and saying the same thing everyone else has been saying, but as things were moving along, I was beginning to understand where everyone was coming from and I was actually dozing off a bit because I was bored, when suddenly... BOOM!!! I'm awake!!

That "BOOM!!!" is when they got to the island. I wasn't expecting an attack right away. I was thinking they would fly in, land on the island, explore a bit, meet some exotic creatures, then accidentally run into Kong. Nope. That's not what happens. They're flying in with their brigade of helicopters and get attacked right away before they can land. They've pissed off the beast to begin with and he starts smacking their helicopters around, swatting them like flies and then crushing them like ants when they're trying to escape. We lose quite a bit of "red coats" right from the beginning and it was freaking epic. Once the dust settles and Kong is gone, that's when the journey begins in a few different parties due to their helicopters being swatted around like flies. Quite honestly I loved Skull Island, which is the name of the island they are on. It's rather entertaining when they are walking through a bamboo field and one "red coat" looks up and gets jabbed through the mouth with a giant piece of bamboo that turns out not to be a piece of bamboo, but rather a leg of a Kong-sized spider. And that's just one of many fancy creatures on this island. It was a fun journey that did a good job of keeping me entertained throughout the movie. The CGI on all of these creatures was great!

One major aspect that I was worried about was the character of John C. Reilly. He was featured quite a bit in that second trailer, which is why I didn't like the second trailer. The trailer had tonal inconsistencies as it tried to be serious like "Godzilla," but John C. Reilly was nothing but off-the-wall humor that made things clash and I was worried that the movie would have the same issues. Nope. John C. Reilly was actually one of my favorite characters. His humor wasn't out of place. Rather he plays a guy that has kinda gone insane after being trapped on the island for like 30 years, so it fit. As far as the rest of the characters go, yeah they don't have much depth or emotion to them, but they grew on me. Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and John Goodman do a great job in their roles despite not being given much and they make it work. There were also plenty of "red coats" that I enjoyed. The character I actually didn't care for much was Samuel L. Jackson. He does a good job of being angry, bitter and mean. You're supposed to hate him and you do, so props there. But there's a lot of stupid decisions that he makes that don't make any sense and thus derails the movie a bit.

Overall, though, the characters were fine and the journey was fun. And the visual effects and cinematography were phenomenal. There's a lot of epic camera shots. Every time Kong shows up, the movie is fantastic. And he shows up more than some people are giving him credit for. He makes the opening scene great. He makes the arrival on the island jaw-dropping. He makes the final showdown epic. And he shows up in small doses throughout outside those scenes to make things work. Yeah, the journey to get to Skull Island was boring and the characters don't have much depth to them, but once they get to Skull Island, the movie is really entertaining. Whenever Kong isn't there, various other creatures show up to fill space, thus keeping the journey exciting, the best of which being the skull crawler creatures they have to avoid. Yeah, there's some decisions made by certain characters that don't make sense. There's also a few elements of the movie that didn't actually do much to help or hinder the plot. They're just there. But overall this is a fun movie. And different from the other King Kong movies as this tells a different story with different characters than the 1933 and 2005 versions. It does its own thing and it works. I'm going to give "Kong: Skull Island" an 8/10.

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