Much like Godzilla: Resurgence and Godzilla 2014, I'm going to do a review for Kong. I've seen the film twice already and I think I'm in the proper mindset for this, maybe. The film is a bit of a tricky thing to review but I think I got it. There MAY be spoilers so if you don't want anything ruined then don't read the review.
Kong: Skull Island
In general, the film was very fun. Legendary looks like they've been listening to the criticism that Godzilla 2014 received and it looks like it's paying off. So once again, I'm going to split the review in two and list the good and bad. First off:
Much like Godzilla 2014, the characters are a mixed bag here. On one hand, they're very interesting and the casting has improved with the likes of Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Toby Kebbell, and Brie Larson. The problem... no one really stands out. What I mean is that if you replaced any of the actors with 3rd rate actors, there really wouldn't be a difference at all. In the end, everyone is just kind of there... no one really does anything impressive with their acting ability. The only one who really stuck out was Samuel L. Jackson because you could see his character's desire for vengeance against King Kong grow over the course of the film and eventually consume him... leading to his inevitable demise. Other than that, no one really does anything memorable. As much shit as people give Godzilla 2014 for their characters, AT LEAST I can name most of the characters off the back of my hand because I got time to know them and even though Bryan Cranston only had 10 minutes to act, his scenes are still more memorable than anything that the characters do in this film. Now before I get fucked up in the comments section for this: I'm NOT saying that Kong: Skull Island has terrible characters but I'm saying that even after all they've been through, you don't really know them aside from a few. If it means anything, at least they're a step up from the cast of Godzilla: Resurgence as the characters in Kong: Skull Island actually do something other than sit down at fucking board meeting all day. Look, in the end... the characters are okay; they're like the characters that you'd see in a sci-fi horror Roger Corman film.
Two words: GREEN SCREEN. Green Screen can be an awesome tool and in our Monsterverse so far, only this film and Godzilla 2014 have utilized it. In Godzilla 2014, the green screen was bloody flawless and nearly unnoticeable. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Kong: SKull Island has bad CGI but what I am saying is that the green screen does work... at times. But when the green screen doesn't work, it DOESN'T work. For instance, there is a scene where the characters are looking at the aurora borealis on Skull Island and it looks magnificent... until you notice the black outline on the characters and the unmatched lighting. There's a couple of other scenes in the film like this such as when King Kong collapses and the characters have a standoff with one another; when you see King Kong unconscious behind them, it's so clear that it's a green screen. That's not to say that the whole film looks like this but there are scenes like this that stick out like a sore thumb and I really wish that Legendary could have taken more time to fix these scenes.
This is just a gripe but Kong in this movie isn't as fleshed out as previous incarnations. I mean, he has pretty much the same basic personality but what you see of him in this film is only a fraction of what you have seen in the previous films. I guess this is mostly due to the lack of a bond between him and a human character (a.k.a. Ann Darrow) which is what the 2005 film did so well.
Similar to King Kong himself, you don't really see all of Skull Island. Again, I'm not saying that Skull Island is shit... I'm just saying that this version of Skull Island is nowhere near as in-depth as the 2005 version which is undoubtedly the most immersive of the Skull Island versions. This however, is mostly because Peter Jackson was involved in the 2005 version and knowing him, he's obsessed with creating universes surrounding epic movies. Again, Skull Island isn't bad but I did feel like I wanted to see a lot more of it.
Before I get shit for this, I just want to say that I do like the Skull Crawlers BUT kind of like the M.U.T.O.s, I feel like these creatures could have been more unique. Really, when I got down to it... these creatures were essentially Legendary's version of Barugon just minus the energy attacks and back legs... or maybe I'm just being too nitpicky at this point.
You don't really get too in-depth with the conflict between Kong and the Skull Crawlers as you do with Godzilla and the M.U.T.O.s. I mean, the whole plot of Godzilla was centered around the M.U.T.O.s and big G's mission to destroy them at ALL COSTS but in this film, Kong kills a couple of them and it's just glossed over with exposition until you see the final fight. The conflict is there but it's just not as strong as it could be.
The original soundtrack isn't very memorable. Don't get me wrong, the actual 70's songs in the film were a great addition but I'm not talking about those, I'm referring to the music that's composed specifically for the movie. The soundtrack isn't terrible by any means but I honestly don't remember any of it. I'm not sure if that's because the music was drowned out by the sounds of everything else in the film or it's just not that catchy... regardless, it didn't really leave too much of an impression.
I admire the fact that we are getting more screen time with the monsters this time around as it was the main thing that we all desired more of in Godzilla 2014. That being said, this film kind of just throws everything at you... in a sense, almost like Jurassic Park 3, oddly enough. I mean, when Kong made his first appearance in the film, they played it really well with the flying tree, the slow motion, and the sunset silhouette. After that though, the rest of the monsters just kind of show up. There's no buildup or suspense really... it's just like: here, take it and enjoy it (kind of like a Transformers movie to be honest). Again, I'm guessing that most people don't really have a problem with this but personally, I thought the lack of suspense made the executions feel... cheap I guess.
Okay, this is a small gripe as the film can't really avoid this (it can but it would be tricky). The film felt a lot like Jurassic Park 3 in a sense. I list this as a negative because while Jurassic Park 3 was cool, it was so "by the numbers": people walk around and talk, they walk into a dinosaur nest, they get attacked, they run away, rinse and repeat. Kong: Skull Island does a MUCH better job at this but for while, I really thought that they were going to do this throughout the whole film until they reached the natives of Skull Island. Again, a pretty small gripe.
I'm grasping at straws again (sorry, I can't help it) but I honestly didn't really buy the natives of Kong: Skull Island in this version. I say this because they live on an island where EVERYTHING wants to kill and eat them. I just don't buy the behavior and lifestyle of these people because you'd think that in such a savage land, these people would have grown and adapted to become savage like the land in order to survive. Then again, I'm not an expert in social studies so I gave the film the benefit of the doubt.
This new iteration of King Kong is a balls to the wall badass. King Kong doesn't take shit from no one and if someone threatens him in any way, he finds you and fucks you up. Okay, seriously though, Kong's behavior was oddly enough, more believable in this film than it was in the 2005 version. He doesn't just lash out at anyone or try to pick fights with creatures or people as big as his thumb. In a sense, he' a lot like Godzilla: if it ain't trashing my property then there's no reason to fight. I also love how this is essentially a remake of the 1960's Kong: from his behavior even down to his physical appearance. I really dig the more humanoid stance that reflects the "man in the rubber suit" technique from those films as well. Even seeing Kong doing basic things like treating his wounds or drinking water was pretty cool. Another thing I never knew was that Kong is an omnivore... he also eats meat along with plants, that honestly surprised me and I like that addition. Basically, Kong is cool.
The Skull Crawlers kind of do leave a little to be desired but overall, when they had the screen to themselves, I was legitimately almost scared. Whereas the M.U.T.O.s didn't care about human beings, the Skull Crawlers were actively stalking and eating people which made for some awesome action scenes, especially during the bone yard scene. The big one also known as 'Ramarak' was a very intimidating villain at the end and even displayed a very malicious personality that went beyond his predatory instincts which is definitely a plus.
The action and the fights are awesome. There is none of this cut away bull from Legendary's previous monsterverse movie and the because of it, the fights are even more enjoyable. Also continuing from Godzilla 2014 is the human grounded action which weaves in nicely with the style of the movie. I hope that they keep doing stuff like this in the later Godzilla/Kong movies because the action in this is pretty damn cool.
Once again, Legendary nails it at creating another ecosystem relationship of giant monsters. While not as in-depth as Peter Jackson's King Kong, Legendary did do a good job a recreating Skull Island and its inhabitants. Rather than being a land of prehistoric dinosaurs, the creatures here are much more weird. From the relationship of Kong and the Skull crawlers to the other minor creatures like the Mother Longlegs, the Spore Mantis, and the Psychovultures, the monster ecosystem once again almost feels like a real thing and is pretty awesome at that.
As I said before, the characters are a mixed bag again so here, I'll talk about the positives. On one hand, the characters are interestingly and arguably, more interesting than the Godzilla 2014 characters. That being said... they're only okay. No one does a particularly bad job and the characters are likable. The best characters are Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) as they are given the most to work with in the script. Other than that, everyone is okay... not much of an impression is left as the rest are pretty much just lunch for the other monsters. I can't find their names for the love of me but the two soldier characters (the black guy and the crazy guy) were kind of funny and Jack Chapman (Toby Kebbell) was probably the most likable character in the movie despite his short time. In the end, they're okay. If you didn't like the characters in Godzilla 2014 then you might like these ones... or I could be wrong which usually seems to be the case.
The film has a very unapologetic tone. It's not dark per say like Godzilla but it's very harsh, an aspect that's been carried over from Peter Jackson's King Kong. You get the sense that Skull Island is a very unforgiving land where only the strong survive and the weak perish. On top of that, you have characters that get killed off quite frequently and by the halfway point, I honestly didn't know who was going to go next
. I'm glad to see that the Kong franchise still knows where it stands with its tone and hopefully, that continues with the monsterverse.
Once again, Legendary has amazing special effects. Minus some of the poor green screen here and there, the CGI is once again top notch, the monsters look absolutely stunning, and they all look like real creatures. Not much else needs to be said about this point.
While the original soundtrack leaves a little to be desired, the recycled 70's soundtracks are great to listen too. They make the film feel very Vietnam-esque and it works with the tone and time period of the film.
Once again, the sound is fantastic as well. While not as thrilling as Godzilla's sound design, hearing Kong roar, hearing explosions going off, and hearing the sound of Kong smacking Ramarak with a tree in a surround sound room is fucking fantastic to my ears.
Dat after-credits scene.
I typed this up pretty quick so if you see errors then oops I guess
. Overall, Kong was a really badass movie but being the critic I am... I have to give it a 7 out of 10. It takes 2 steps forward where the 2014 Godzilla film falls... but at the same time, it takes 2 steps back in a lot of areas. In the end, I think it's just as enjoyable really. That being said, most of you will probably love it more than Godzilla as it quenches your thirst for monster violence
. I'm glad that Legendary is off to a good start with the Godzilla/Kong monsterverse and I hope they keep up the good work.