Grade B monster fun!

Kong: Skull Island movie review

By David Josselyn

As a child, I recall wasting away my Saturday afternoons watching movies like Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and others on television. These movies were considered B-Grade due to tight production schedules, low budgets, predictable, formulaic, and shortened run time. With a budget of $185 million, no one could accuse “Kong: Skull Island” of being low budget, although it is somewhat predictable. Peter Jackson brought King Kong to the big screen in a serious, real-life way in 2005, but writers Dan Gilory and Max Borenstein made “Kong: Skull Island” to resemble those campy and fun monster movies of the 50s and 60s I watched on TV in the 70s.

The Plot

In 1973, Scientist Bill Randa, played by John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, 10 Cloverfield Lane), attempts to prove to the world that monsters exist by taking a team of scientists, a tracker, and military escort to an uncharted island only recently revealed through satellite imagery for a scientific discovery and contour mapping expedition without telling any of them there are monsters on the island. Tracker James Conrad, played by Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager, Thor: Ragnarok), knows something is amiss for why would this expedition require a man of his skills? They pick up Time Magazine’s photo journalist Mason Weaver, played by Brie Larson (21 Jump Street, Captain Marvel), to record the adventure and head to the island surrounded by storms in a helicopter vanguard. They attract the unwanted attention of a giant gorilla, Kong, motion-captured by Terry Notary (War for the Planet of the Apes, Avengers: Infinity War),who systematically destroys every helicopter. Now, the scattered teams must find their way to the north side of the island for a scheduled rendezvous to be picked up and brought back to an awaiting ship. Along the way, they find that Kong is a protector of the island and there are greater dangers that threaten them.

The Good

The film is filled with period music, White Rabbit, Long Cool Woman, Bad Moon Rising, etc., giving it the feel of “Apocalypse Now” or “Good Morning Vietnam.” The soldiers brought along their own vinyl record and real-to-real players for their own soundtrack and as campy as that sounds, it worked.

The film takes advantage of modern special effects; there are no stop-motion monsters here! It is also filmed on location in Hawaii (near the “Jurassic Park” location), Australia, and Viet Nam. This gives the movie a real-world feel when they could have chosen to green screen it all (ahem… George Lucas). The motion-capture monsters fit in with the scenes seamlessly. Unlike those Saturday matinees, these creatures are scary real.

The actors are not B-List actors and are given some pretty good lines to work with, so I have no complaints there.

Unlike typical monster/horror movies, it features an ethnically diverse cast and white folk are not the superior leaders or thinkers.

The Bad

There are so many historical, factual, and continuity errors; I wouldn’t know where to begin. However, I do not care! This movie was not meant to be accurate, it was meant to be fun. Let Peter Jackson focus on accuracy, this one is not that.

The sound mixing got a little crazy at times with ambient jungle noises trumping dialogue.

This film is every bit as predictable as an old Godzilla movie, so pack away your brain to enjoy this one.

In Summary

“Kong: Skull Island” is a really fun romp into monster-land. If monster movies aren’t your thing, you will think this is silly, but I loved it. It is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language. The language truly is brief, especially considering these are Viet Nam veterans fresh from the conflict, and in fact the harshest line is spoken by John Goodman’s character. The “skull-crawlers” are indeed much scarier than Kong himself, so it is probably too intense for younger children. It includes a scene with a partially digested body part; gross. Waiting to see it on a small screen without a good sound system will never do this movie justice; it was made for the big screen. The movie also has a bonus if you’re willing to sit through the credits. I rate the film four out of five never-ending rolls of film.

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