Kong: Skull Island (2017)

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Overall Rating 67%
Overall Rating
Ranked #516
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Connections: King Kong MonsterVerse

A diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong. --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: March 15, 2017
I have been really hyped for the latest telling of King Kong. Sure, the last two I watched left me wanting more, but I still had high hopes, especially since it's been announced that this particular incarnation will be going toe to toe with Legendary's Godzilla in a few years.

In 1973, the government agency Monarch is just about bankrupt and the entire department is number one on the chopping block. In a last ditch effort, agents Bill Randa and Houston Brooks are able to convince a senator to piggy back onto another expedition to explore the previously uncharted Skull Island. For protection, they hire former SAS James Conrad and the Sky Devils, a military helicopter squad led by Lieutenant Colonel Packard. Photojournalist Mason Weaver also joins the expedition, despite her anti-military agenda. As the choppers fly over the island, they're interrupted by an entire tree being launched through their windshield by a hundred foot primate. The attacks separate the group into several groups. Packard leads one group, searching for one of the men who went down with the chopper carrying all the munitions, obsessed with getting revenge on the ape for his fallen men. Conrad and Weaver are in the other, and they run into Hank Marlowe, a WWII pilot who's been living with the island's natives since crashing in the Great War. He explains that the massive creature they faced is King Kong, the alpha of the island and he's actually a protector for the islands creatures, especially against the skullcrawlers, a breed of vicious subterranean reptile that is only kept in check by Kong's efforts.

Perhaps the biggest complaint of 2014's Godzilla was that it didn't provide enough Kaiju action. While there's something to be said for a good slow-burn, there's no denying that Big G never did get to truly shine in that movie. King Kong tried the opposite approach; this movie takes about twenty minutes to get to the island, and it doesn't let up from there. Between Kong and army alike fighting off the various creatures of the island, there's plenty of variety to keep the fighting interesting and I was having a blast the entire time. It contrasts very nicely with the fact that for the first time, the Kong story has completely been retooled. There's no kidnapping natives, no foolhardy plans to bring Kong to New York, and no infatuation with the female lead. The entire focus is on his life on the island; specifically, the dichotomy of the sheer beauty of its nature and the constant danger of its inhabitants. Kong is unquestionably king, but its lonely at the top and I loved how they were able to marry this subtle emotion into such an action-packed monster movie.

Of course, it certainly doesn't hurt they all these monsters look so good either. Yes, at a hundred foot tall, Kong stands at nearly four times his usual height, and he is a site to behold. While I was initially concerned that they made him too big to remain an intimate character, the movie was able to maintain that intimacy by framing him as the island's protector and the animators put the emotion in the classic character perfectly to bring it home. Plus, not wanting to blow their load early, setting their movie so far in the past still leaves room for the ape to impress when he returns to face Godzilla in 2020. You see, even with this rendition's amped up size, he's described as "still growing" and the film makers have referred to Kong as an adolescent. This means that close to fifty years will have gone by, giving him time to reach adulthood and grow into a match for the 350 foot Godzilla. It's an ingenious way to remain awe-inspiring even though we've already seen him in action. They didn't slouch with the skullcrawlers either. An updated version of a creature found in the '33 classic, these bloodthirsty, unique lizards were a brilliant foil to the simpler, protective Kong. While I will say I was hoping for something more with the alpha skullcrawler, overall, they still looked amazing.

If there's anything to complain about in this movie, it's the human characters. Now, Conrad and Weaver are ostensibly the main characters, and while Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson handled the roles decently enough, there just wasn't quite enough role for them to handle. Fortunately, the secondary characters had a bit more to them. Samuel L. Jackson's Packard was the main force, channeling his usual shtick into an obsession bordering on insanity. Between this and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, he looks to slowly be putting some variety into the same angry black man he's been stuck in for awhile now. And then there's John C. Reilly as a man who's spent the last thirty odd years living among a mute tribe; let's just say he's a little socially out-of-practice. Combined with the fact that Harlowe is the only one who knows the ins-and-outs of the island, and I'm sure you can see how his character is a lot of fun. Also, I need to give a personal shout out to Shea Whigham. Yeah, Cole's a tertiary character, but I'm a sucker for deadpan stoicism, and he nails it.

So, long story short, I was incredibly happy with this. It looked amazing, it was action-packed, and if you wait until the credits are over, it will have any Kaiju fan incredibly stoked for the future of this universe. 8.5/10.
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