Warner Brother’s slate has been Kaiju-friendly as of late. What with Pacific Rim showcasing a spectrum of the ginormous abominations fighting giant robots and 2014’s Godzilla bringing back everyone’s favourite fire-breathing reptile (don’t tell Bowser I said that), the genre has truly risen from the barren radioactive wasteland that was the ‘Monster Verse’ of late. Warner Brother’s acquisition of the rights to all things Kaiju has seen a re-imagining of the monsters made famous by Toho and just like Godzilla at the start of a rampage through a cityscape, Warner Brothers is just getting started.
With a Godzilla sequel entitled Godzilla: King of the Monsters slated for a March 2019 release date and Pacific Rim: Uprising on its way, Kaiju confidence is higher than a 350 foot prehistoric monster with a bad case of heartburn. And if that wasn’t enough kaiju for you, it has just been announced that both Kong and Godzilla are going to go head to head on the big screen, with plans for a shared cinematic universe fully underway, a script already in the works. With more kaiju on the way than an oversized ape can shake a tree trunk at and a new cinematic universe set to dominate the Box Office, it begs the question, is Kong still King? Is Kong: Skull Island a worthy re-introduction to an already iconic character? In a word… Absolutely.
So what of the plot? Without getting into spoilers Kong: Skull Island centres around the discovery of, you guessed it, an uninhabited island (or so they thought) and an expedition led by John Goodman‘s Bill Randa, an employee of a clandestine organisation tasked with the exploration of uncharted territories and as of yet, undiscovered species. Requesting a military convoy headed up by Samuel L. Jackson‘s Preston Packard and his war-weary Vietnam helicopter unit, Randa also enlists the tracking skills of Tom Hiddleston‘s SAS veteran, James Conrad and Brie Larson‘s Mason Weaver, a photographer on the hunt for her first Pulitzer Prize. Something tells me shes going to get that accolade. King GONG anyone? All monkeying around aside, plans go awry, seriously awry, when our intrepid explorers encounter a spectrum of creatures, island inhabitants and a scene-stealing World War Two pilot who has been stranded on the island since his plane was shot down in 1944 played by John C. Reilly.
The film’s 1973 backdrop adds a unique dimension to the films plot with the Vietnam War coming to a close and with it Preston Packard’s role in the world. An archetypal serviceman who has been there, seen it all (“YOU WEREN’T THERE MAN!”) and bought the proverbial, Kong forces Packard to re-evaluate his outlook. A man with no cause left to fight, he soon encounters a newfound mission in the form of the humongous primate.
Kong: Skull Island is based on a collective of well-versed tropes when it comes to the monster sub-genre; man versus nature, notions around whether man should ever play God as well as the impact of humanity upon the environment all play a part in structuring the films narrative. That said however, when boiled down to its basest form, Kong: Skull Island is an exploration into the nature of man, an intriguing deconstruction of the the human psyche framed against that of the character arcs within the film; Packard’s Apocalypse Now-esque descent into madness, Randa’s desire to prove himself as a pioneer as opposed to some scientist who has gone banana’s (sorry) and Conrad’s mercenary-turned- conservationist. It would be an understatement to state that humanity does not come out all too favourably within the film. Kong’s first sequence onscreen where we get to see him go completely ‘Ape’, utterly juxtaposes the Gorilla we are left with by the end of the film. This is made all the more apparent by the fact that Kong is actually one of the only characters who evolves throughout Kong: Skull Island, many within the expedition rendered devolved and animalistic.
The film is at it’s best when heady philosophical quandaries like those mentioned above are interspersed with comedic one-liners and insights into the human condition; namely how humans react when knocked to the bottom of the food-chain, a humbly notion for any apex predator. Sitting in the cinema I was completely lost in the visual beauty of the movie with its outstanding CGI, design of an island that would stump Bear Gryll‘s efforts at survival and a toe-tapping soundtrack right of the ‘Vietnam War’ movie playbook. At no point did I feel overwhelmed by the film, my suspension of disbelief never questioned, reality a distant memory. The sub-genre of ‘creature feature’ cannon hybridised with that of the War genre ensure that an audience is never left wanting, the set pieces within the film chest-thumpingly good. And if the the reprisal of a popular Samuel L. Jackson quote from an even more famous creature feature doesn’t have you swinging from the tree branches then, my good reader, your sense of humour must be more uninhabitable than that of Skull Island.
What will generally excite those who are not in complete adoration of 2014’s Godzilla is that Kong is not teased to the extent that Godzilla was. The blink and you’ll miss it style of Gareth Edwards is replaced with lingering long shots of the hairy behemoth that leave the audience salivating, the King shown in all his glory. A particular stand-out moment in the film and also my favourite, is one of the climatic scenes within the film whereby man takes on beast, the latter blurred quite substantially by Packard’s descent into madness. That and a particular line delivered by Reilly‘s Hank Marlow during a scene that hypes up the ANT-icipation. And finally, whatever you do, stay until the very end of the extensive credits. Trust me, you won’t be left disappointed. A fantastic movie with a cocktail of humour, action and gravitas that could even bring Kong to his knees with intoxication. Long live the King!
So what did you think of Kong: Skull Island? Jungle VIP or was Warner Brother’s Primat-ure in bringing back the oversized primate? Let me know what you think in the comments below or as ever on out Twitter page.