Kong: Skull Island: A Review by Guest Reviewer Yaseen Fawzi

NOTE: This review was not written by me, it was written by my good friend Yaseen Fawzi, whose reviews I regularly post on here because regardless of whether or not I agree with him on the film, I do love what he says nonetheless. Even though I would personally rate Kong: Skull Island * * * 1/2 (out of * * * *), I still love what Yaseen has to say about the film. Anyway, here is Yaseen’s review and I hope you enjoy it

Kong: Skull Island

Review by
Yaseen Fawzi

March 11, 2017

Kong: Skull Island is the latest attempt to revive King Kong for a new generation of moviegoers. In the wake of peace negotiations being made between the United States and Vietnam, agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) begins planning a special expedition to find the mysterious Skull Island. The crew primarily consists of tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), and biologist San Lin (Jing Tian), along with the helicopter squadron known as the Sky Devils. Upon discovering the island, however, they are attacked by the large gorilla Kong and wind up separated. The groups then begin their search for a resupply team in the hopes of escaping the island. Along the way, they encounter various treacherous obstacles and meet Lt. Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a hardened World War II who has been stranded for 28 years.  

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Skull Island establishes a new continuity for the Kong character, and as a result, it does not follow the traditional structure of the previous incarnations. Despite the presence of Kong, it is less like a monster movie and could be considered more of a survival film, as the crew struggle to figure out how to get off the island. There are obvious parallels to the political turmoil and trigger-happy machinery of the Vietnam War prominent within the film’s anti-war sentiments, considering its time period. Kong, in this version, is presented as a more aggressive, bruised, and battle-ready gorilla, which is a much-needed update for an already iconic character. Unlike their previous incarnations, the island natives are presented in a more sympathetic light, subverting their stereotypical image within seconds of their first appearance. They are also revealed to have helped Marlow after he was stranded and worship Kong as a god.    

In terms of technical achievements, Kong easily excels. It features some fantastically staged action set pieces, including Kong’s first attack on the invading helicopters and a battle with native pterodactyls. Many of the deaths in the film are depicted in a darkly humorous manner, much like those in Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi classics. On the other hand, the pacing of Kong is generally on point for the first half, but turns unbalanced towards the end. The visual effects are outstanding, especially when created by artists at the legendary Industrial Light and Magic. The motion capture actor portraying Kong, Terry Notary, makes great efforts to not simply turn it into an imitation of either Andy Serkis or Rick Baker’s performances. The seamlessness of the CGI also applies to the creatures the crew encounter, including mossy yaks, spiders with bamboo legs, and a log mantis. By far, the most intricate creatures in the film are the ferocious Skull Crawlers, the primary antagonists, with their skeletal heads and lizard-like bodies. The music by Henry Jackman features the pulsating drumbeats and ostinatos typically found in Hans Zimmer’s action scores, although there are attempts to replicate the orchestral grandeur of Max Steiner’s score to the 1933 King Kong. Don’t forget to stick around after the credits, because there is a special surprise just around the corner.    

Performance-wise, the leads in Kong are very uneven, with Tom Hiddleston’s character being given a badass introduction before receiving little to no proper development in his transition into action hero. Samuel L. Jackson is, well, Samuel L. Jackson, delivering his typical “don’t mess with me” schtick as Packard. However, his character’s tonal shift halfway through the film proves very abrupt, despite a few clever instances of dialogue throughout, including a Jurassic Park homage. While John Goodman does give a good performance as Randa, his character is largely ignored after the first half of the movie and a lot of his potential is wasted. Brie Larson has a largely thankless role as the main female character Weaver (despite efforts to make her more active at the end of the film), standing around and taking pictures yet seemingly overacting at the same time. It is John C. Reilly, however, who gives the best performance and has the best character arc as Marlow, who has spent long enough to know Skull Island inside and out.

Kong: Skull Island is far from perfect, but it works on both a technical level and as a solid enough blockbuster.

* * * (out of * * * * “Ya-stars”)


My Favorite Ben Wheatley Films (New)

* * * * (Out of * * * *)

1.   A Field in England (2013)

2.   Kill List (2011)

3.   High-Rise (2015)

4.   Sightseers (2012)

* * * * (Out of * * * *) (Short Cinema)

1.   The ABC’s of Death (2012) 
(Segment: “U is for Unearthed”)

* * * 1/2 (Out of * * * *)

1.   Down Terrace (2009)