“A team of adventurers explores an uncharted island in the Pacific, but their mission of discovery becomes one of survival when they venture into the domain of the mighty Kong.”
It’s been over eighty years since the original King Kong graced the silver screen, terrifying audiences and leaving them in awe of the technical marvel at the time. Although eight decades have passed, the themes of the misunderstood creature and the cruelty of man-kind are still prevalent in many films today. Kong: Skull Island encompasses the best qualities of all the incarnations of Kong, making it different enough to provide solid entertainment and something unique.
The film opens in 1944 as two men become stranded on an island after an intense air battle. The men, still engaged in combat once reaching the ground, chase one another into the depths of the jungle. Just as they are about to kill one another, Kong appears. Fast forwarding to 1973 as the United States announces it is pulling out from the war in Vietnam, the world has changed, and a surge in technological progress has allowed for satellite imagery to discover the last remnants of the unexplored parts of the world. This is when we are introduced to an organization that may be familiar to some: Monarch, first introduced in Godzilla, the scientific organization dedicated to discovering and studying these monstrous creatures that lay dormant all over the planet.
Monarch successfully gains funding to mount an expedition to an undiscovered island, and quickly puts together a team, including a tracker, scientific team and military escort. Punching through the treacherous perpetual storm that surrounds it, the team is quickly massacred by Kong, leaving the surviving members scattered around the island. As two groups of survivors struggle to survive in an extraordinary world unlike anything they’ve ever seen, one group led by Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) vows to kill Kong. The other group learns the history of the island and Kong’s desire to protect the inhabitants. Realizing that he is the only thing that stands between a hoard of ravenous lizards spilling out into the rest of the world, they must do all they can to stop Packard.
One of the best things about Kong: Skull Island is the balancing of great acting, awe-inspiring visuals, and epic action sequences. There is no shortage of talent when it comes to this film, as everyone involved gives an absolutely stellar performance. The cast list is just astonishing, including Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, and the lesser known Shea Whigham, who has always been a favorite of mine. The only issue I have with the film is just that there are so many characters to keep track of and that fight for screen time. Although it is nice not to have a group consisting almost entirely of throw away characters destined to be eaten by various monsters, having so many smaller characters takes away from the development of some of the larger players. Despite the lack of development, Samuel L. Jackson makes a very convincing antagonist who is doing what he believes is right to protect the rest of the world and get justice for his fallen men.
The themes of the original incarnations of King Kong remain intact; the misunderstood monster, man encroaching on nature, destroying what they can’t understand. One of the things I enjoyed most about the film were some of the differences, mainly involving Brie Larson’s character and the decision not to make her the helpless maiden in distress as Kong whisks her away to become infatuated with her. Although they hint upon this ever so slightly, Larson is strong and independent enough to hold her own on this island of nightmares.
Kong: Skull Island is the second film that sets up a widely expanding universe that will include many of the classic monsters. Since Godzilla in 2014, we can clearly see how much care is going into creating these visually stunning and action packed films that deserve the recognition and re-imagination they are currently receiving. If these two films are any indication, I am very excited for the future of this MonsterVerse.
Kong: Skull Island is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 2.4:1. Along with stunning visuals, the transfer shows no signs of defects whatsoever. Color levels are good, with bright and vivid sequences highlighting the jungle settings and amazing creatures that live in it. Although the Blu-Ray release is near perfection, I’d definitely want to check it out in 4k. With a film that relies so heavily on these amazing visuals, they can only look better in 4k HDR.
The audio is presented in Dolby Atmos and may be one of my favorite things about the film. The track is intense from the very beginning, utilizing every bit of your system to deliver a truly immersive experience. Levels sound terrific, and despite the loud sequences you never miss a bit of dialogue. Another great thing about this film is the soundtrack. Taking place in the 70’s, we hear a lot of those classic rock songs that represent the era and the Vietnam War.
With a great film also comes a great list of extras. These are all highly entertaining and a must-see, if not to prepare you for what’s ahead in the MonsterVerse!
- Creating a King – A 2 part exploration of the rebirth and re-creation of an iconic monster.
- Monarch Files 2.0 (Companion Archive) – Dive deep into the organization and MonsterVerse mythology.
- Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler – Join the actor on a tour of the film’s breathtaking locations.
- On Location: Vietnam
- Through the Lense: Brie Larson’s Photography
- Director Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
Kong: Skull Island is a wildly entertaining thrill ride that re-energizes a classic monster icon. With more films on the horizon taking place in this MonsterVerse, I look forward for what’s in store!