No Monkey Business: Gisell Says KONG: SKULL ISLAND Is A Rampaging And Immersive Thrill Ride!

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FILM REVIEW: KONG: SKULL ISLAND

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King Kong has been the reigning monster of the silver screen since it first hit theater houses in 1933. Ever since then, the Kong brand has been featured in everything from movies, video games, books, amusement park rides, and has become an eminent pop culture sensation. After the critical success of the first film in the 1930s, countless movies followed, and while some did not achieve near the success of the original; it wasn’t until Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005), which convinced critics to once again praise Kong and welcome him back to the big screen. It’s been twelve long years, and Kong: Skull Island is definitely worth the wait. This film takes the best of its cinematic history and shakes things up, by complimenting its lore and reviving the genre for modern audiences.

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My screening was in IMAX 3D, and as far as the word “immersive” goes, this film is a “Kongfrontational” thrill ride with complete pandemonium; no monkey business. The visual effects & sound are arranged by none other than Lucasfilm/Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Skywalker sound. There were several moments which felt like Kong was stomping around the auditorium, due to such fantastic audio and sound effects and Kong looked amazingly realistic onscreen. The visual effects artistry going on in this film is on a whole different level. The director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who’s a relative newcomer on the filmmaking scene, employs many POV shots in order to make you feel like you’re in the movie, and it brings a heightened sense of feeling and anticipation. When a helicopter spins uncontrollably to the ground, you’re going to feel like you’re in the pilot seat. You know the films you wait to see at the dollar theater or Redbox? This IS NOT one of them. For a film of this magnitude and scale, theatergoers should seek out a respectable theater with a bigger screen and a high-quality sound system, to truly take in the stunning visuals, auditory power, and dynamic scenes. The on-location shots of Vietnam, Hawaii, and Australia are stunning, and the film’s cinematography done by Larry Fong (Watchmen, Super 8, 300) is a towering, visual feast.

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For those sensitive to 3D, this film has a lot of eye-candy and many scenes utilize that eye-popping 3D element, so you might want to keep that in mind when you’re choosing your ticket purchase. I personally loved the IMAX 3D filming style, as it offered depth and character to the topography of the land and incredibly captured its wide-eyed and vibrant action sequences. This film is engaging, comical, and gives the audience what it wants, but also surprises by adding new elements to the Kong storyline. Since it takes place in the 1970s, we are presented with a Vietnam-stylized war backdrop, an amazing rock & roll soundtrack, as well as an electrifyingly-orchestrated score composed by Henry Jackman (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X: First Class, The Dark Knight (synthesizer programmer). Jackman stated that he employed many guitars, synthesizers, and a 70s-inspired sound, along with the fun of a usual orchestra to really make things come alive and his music does indeed enhance and enliven the atmosphere of each scene.

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The topics of war, progress, unity, mankind, and nature are all explored through the story arc and each team member assigned to the island expedition has been marked by war in completely different ways. Some are looking to make a new discovery, make a profit, or change public opinion. While others are only looking out for themselves, holding onto bitterness and contempt for the war and its consequences. Their motivations are all different, which drives the story and leads their characters to make personal choices throughout the film, which affects the group as a whole. The only problem I found with this film was the dialogue. In certain instances, the writing seemed to be well scripted, while at other times, the character’s lines fell flat or were insignificant. There were a couple moments where you hear a soldier chatting about a whole lot of nothing, and you expect that something is bound to pop out at any minute, to relieve us of the clichéd banter being tossed back and forth.

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Comparing this adventure to previous Kong films, this movie is less about romance and more about rip-roaring rampage, which is a huge plus in my book. The concept of the helpless damsel being possessed by the monster has been overdone. Although this story touches on it very lightly, it is done with consideration and respect in the context of the story and in a more humane, applicable way, which makes much more sense. We get a genuine idea behind Kong’s motivations in this film, and it’s not delivered in a, “he’s a thoughtless killing machine” type of way. We are given a productive backstory, and this explains the monster’s actions. The females in the film are fearless and independent characters, whom can normally look out for themselves, which is a nice adjustment from previous films. The cast is made up of a diverse set of actors that each add personality to their characters. John C. Reilly, whom improvised a lot of his dialogue, really hits it out of the park as a crazy castaway, and he supplies some of the best comedic moments with perfect timing. I enjoyed the simplicity of his jokes & how they wrote his character. Towards the end of the film, the writers really wanted you to care about the conclusion of his story.

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As for the others, I felt there was very little chemistry and build between some of the main characters. I expect that the issue will be fleshed out more in future films. Also, the PG-13 rating was a big shock to me. In no way does this rating cheapen the action or fight scenes. There are numerous obscenities, including the F- bomb, and there are several violent, gory scenes with blood spatter and brutal deaths. This Kong doesn’t go quietly, and isn’t the sentimental, gentle giant, that has been portrayed so many times over. He’s a colossal monster; hell-bent on destruction; giving us good old-fashioned creature feature fun, which is well worth the price of admission.

Kong: Skull Island stars: Brie Larson (Mason Weaver), Tom Hiddleston (James Conrad), Corey Hawkins (Houston Brooks), John Goodman (Bill Randa), Samuel L. Jackson (Preston Packard), John C. Reilly (Hank Marlow), Toby Kebbell (Jack Chapman), Tian Jing (San), John Ortiz (Victor Nieves), and Terry Notary (Kong).

*NOTE: There is a Post-Credit scene which plays at the very end of the closing credits, and is integral to watch. Considering the mythological world of the Kong Universe and its creatures; fans are going to go bananas. * 

 

FINAL WORD:  StarStarStarStarEmpty Star