Kong: Skull Island (We don’t belong here)

Rating: Mild


Year: 2017
Running time: 2 hours
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly

Spoiler alert in effect.

I watched the trailer for this film on the day it came out and I immediately loved it. Top-class actors, awesome visuals and action sequences, and Kong. I have this weird soft spot for monster movies like this, even though if a romantic comedy had this thin of a plot, I would never have parted with my money.

The story is essentially a reboot of the King Kong franchise and Legendary Entertainment’s attempt to kick start a Monsterverse series, similar to what Marvel and DC have been doing with superhero movies. It’s quite obvious from the lack of any substantial plot in the film that it’s trying to set up a sequel for the Kong vs Godzilla film due out sometime in 2020. They also did a remake of Godzilla about 3 years ago, so it should be interesting how all of this pans out.

kong map
Skull Island

As a stand-alone Kong film, it hits all the right marks in terms of action and monster-fighting. The story is set in the 1970s, feasibly the last time that there will still be unexplored, uncharted islands in the world. Bill Randa (John Goodman) is this senior government official who is associated with a group known as Monarch, which is basically a bunch of people determined to prove monsters exist and therefore wipe them out before they threaten mankind. He makes a last ditch attempt to obtain funding to explore a newly discovered island, called Skull Island (zero points for creativity, the fricking island even looks like a skull), which was detected on new satellite mapping. It’s surrounded by a continuous storm system, which has kept the island isolated from ships and explorers and explains the higher than usual rate of ship disappearances. He enlists the help of Captain James Conrad (the extremely dashing Tom Hiddleston), who is ex-British special forces, along with Mason Weaver, an “anti-war” photographer/journalist (Brie Larson). Then he also needs a military escort to get to the island, so basically a whole US Army squadron is hired, headed up by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who is annoying as hell in this movie. Chuck in a bunch of researchers and geologists (don’t ask why they came), and what you get is a bunch of absolute misfits with nearly no character development due to the sheer amount of people. Honestly, even though Tom and Brie’s character seem to be the ‘leads’ of the film, we know almost nothing about them and their background. Probably only Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly’s characters get any sort of development and backstory, which is a shame, because they had a lot of opportunities to really flesh out the lead characters more. But I guess it’s not a film that focus on character development.

Long story short, they arrive on the island, drop some bombs (which is the dumbest thing ever, although apparently it was done on purpose so that Randa could finally prove monsters exist), and upset a lot of local residents who don’t take kindly to uninvited guests. Half the people die within minutes of arriving, then they spend the rest of their time trying to get to the Northern part of the island to get rescued. They honestly had the most naive, ill-conceived plan ever. I would never ever sign up for this kind of thing. The best part of the film, and where pretty much all the humour comes from, is John C. Reilly’s character Hank Marlow. He became stranded on the island during WWII, when his plane crash landed, and he’s somehow managed to survive 20-odd years on that place. He becomes their sort of ‘local guide’, but no one really heeds his warnings anyways, because if they did, how would we get to see all the monsters attacking them? I liked how he got to meet up with his wife and son again in the end, as cliche and unrealistic as that may be. He’s a character you actually root for.

In terms of the monsters, there’s quite a variety. Kong is actually the least scary as he’s more of a guardian of the island, protecting the local inhabitants (yes, there are humans who live on this God forsaken island) from the vilest of creatures: the Skull Crawlers. Skull Crawlers look like those really scary carnivorous dinosaurs with really sunken skin and bad breath. They only have two arms (or are those legs?) and this really long tail. Apparently, they killed all of Kong’s family, leaving him the sole survivor, and the only thing standing in the way of the biggest Skull Crawler from surfacing and killing everyone. Then there’s a host of all other creatures hidden away on the island. There’s the giant spider with bamboo legs that camouflages in the bamboo forest and spikes people to death with its legs. Then there’s a giant squid that Kong kills and eats for lunch (I guess it would be like sashimi). There’s flying creatures that look like pterodactyls, some log-like camouflaging giant stick insect thing, and a harmless giant water buffalo. I don’t give the best descriptions, so it’s best you just take a look at the pictures below.

There were times during the movie that I found it all so terribly cliche and overdone that I just laughed in the middle of monsters attacking the people. There were some genuine funny moments, and some really awesome fight sequences with terrific CGI. The last fight scene between Kong and the mega-Skull Crawler was epic and worthy to see on the big screen. I know I may be sounding overly critical of the film, but I had a reasonably good time watching it. The graphics were fantastic, there was plenty of monster fights, and the acting was good. For a monster film, it was really good and those who enjoy this genre will be very much satisfied. I also found that Tom Hiddleston helped me get through all of it. He looks terribly fine in this film.

I did come away from the film thinking ‘Is it possible that there are still undiscovered areas on Earth, and are there monsters there?’. Technology has progressed far and it seems unlikely, but man have their limits. What if there’s a place so isolated and remote that all sorts of creatures exist? I mean, look at deep-water creatures. They evolve and adapt differently to animals closer to the water surface. For so long, we didn’t have the right technology to go that far down, so we had no idea what animals lived there. It’s a side note to the film, but it’s still interesting to think about. Regardless, you won’t see me volunteering for any exploration missions.

Overall, it’s going to be a fantastic action movie if you want non-stop monster fighting, jump scares and terrific CGI. The plot is laughable and unrealistic, and character development is pretty much non-existent. But of course no one sees this movie for the plot. If you want to be thoroughly entertained for 2 hours by Kong, prehistoric monsters, a bunch of trigger-happy misfits stuck on an uncharted island and the chaos that ensues, this is for you.

P.S. Apparently there is a post-credit scene, which I had no idea about. Be sure to check this out and let me know what you think.

Other ratings:
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
IMDb: 7.1/10
Metacritic: 62%
Cinemascore: B+

Discussion questions:
1. Are you excited about the whole Monsterverse franchise or do you think it will flop?
2. Do you think there exists creatures or monsters that we have yet to discover?


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