This Saturday, I went to see Kong: Skull Island at the movie theater! I have wanted to see it ever since they announced that the movie was coming out because of the new attraction that recently opened at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, Florida. For those of you who don’t know, last July, the ride Skull Island: Reign of Kong opened in Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Florida, and a lot of the movie is based off of the within the attraction. Also, parts of the ride were based off of the King Kong experience during the backlot tour at Universal Studios Hollywood, which I had the opportunity experience this past summer. Therefore, even though I had never seen a King Kong movie in my life, and knew very little about the franchise in general, I really wanted to go see the film. Also, I knew that Brie Larson was starring in the movie, and that sealed the deal for me because she is one of my favorite actresses.
Not only was this film created in order to take advantage of the hype surrounding the new attraction, but word is that Universal Studios is gearing up to create another Godzilla v. Kong movie (since the original came out in 1962). This project is actually slated to be completed in 2020, which is a fairly long time to wait, but I don’t know amuch about Godzilla either, and this next film project wasn’t a part of my motivation for going to see the movie.
Well, for those of you that have experienced or seen footage of either the King Kong Experience in Universal Studios Hollywood or the actual ride in Universal Studios Florida there were no T-Rex battles or giant, razor-toothed worm creatures like out of a Star Wars film. However, one of the best parts of this movie was the crazy, hellish creatures that the filmmakers came up with in
addition to Kong himself. I’ll describe those more in depth later on.
The film starts out with two soldiers becoming stranded on a deserted island in World War II, one man being a Japanese man and the other being an American man. As the two attempt to kill each other after having crash-landed on the island, the audience is introduced to King Kong for the first time (or just his eyes, but the effect is pretty much the same). The story of these two soldiers is developed later on in the film.
The opening credits begins with a montage of clips from history, starting with World War II and ending during the Vietnam War, which is the period in which the film takes place. When the movie finally begins, it is set just days after Nixon announced the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. The film drops the audience into the 1970s, where anti-war sentiment is prominent, and the Cold War is in full force. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting to get a story that was steeped in American history (if a sci-fi fantasy film can really be steeped in history, but you get the point). These historical aspects added to the entire plot throughout, and the time period is heavily emphasized from the very start of the film.
A group of soldiers who are meant to finally be sent home after their time serving in the Vietnam War are recruited for a private expedition to an uncharted island in the Pacific that has been located by a journalist and a geologist who are intrigued by the mystery that the land holds.
This group of men provides a helicopter escort for the journalist Bill Randa (John Goodman), the geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), the tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), and the war (or anti-war, as she puts it) photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to get onto the
island and explore. This fleet of helicopters is met with the audience’s first full look at King Kong, who is enormous, standing at almost 140 feet tall. Kong swats the helicopter brigade out of the air like flies, setting up the main conflict that drives the rest of the story line.
This first look at King Kong is absolutely breathtaking, because not only do you get a real feel for how imposing he is, standing taller than almost every mountain on the island, but you also get to see how amazing the CGI work of this film really is. I have to say, from this scene and beyond, the CGI throughout the movie was impeccable. After coming from seeing Beauty and the Beast recently, which I also thought did a good job of animating the Beast, there really was no contest. King Kong looked completely realistic! There was never a time throughout the entire film where I felt like I was watching a computer-animated creature moving, whether I was watching Kong or any of the other creatures in the movie.
This first introduction with King Kong leads to two different things: General Packard, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is infuriated that the giant ape killed his men in the helicopter brigade, and marks Kong as his new target to be destroyed before he will leave the island. On the other hand, the photographer Mason Weaver and the tracker James Conrad, among others, are separated from the group, and due to this, they meet a tribe of indigenous people on the island, along with the World War II soldier that crash landed in the place long ago, Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly).
I have to say that John C. Reilly stole the show. While the film was cast spectacularly, and with a few big names such as John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Hiddleston, John C. Reilly and his character were better than everyone else combined. Reilly is known for his
work in comedic films, and here he is no different, as he provides all of the comic relief throughout the expedition on Skull Island. He also provides explains the backstory behind the island, Kong, and the terrifying creatures (which he dubs “skullcrawlers”) that live there.
This is really where the major part of my review comes in, and that is because I have to dedicate time towards telling you how surprised I was by this movie. I figured that the film would be perfectly enjoyable, but I also thought that it would be just your basic action movie. However, it was not just an action movie at all! That is why I really enjoyed the film.
The major lesson of the entire movie is that wars are only begun because humans create enemies where none exist (like with the Vietnam War. Coincidence?). General Packard spends most of the film attempting to destroy Kong for killing his soldiers, and yet we discover that King Kong is not the enemy: the skull-crawlers are. Kong is only doing his best to protect the island, and the people that live on it, from more dangerous creatures. In fact, King Kong has lost every other member of his species to these terrible, reptilian creatures that have what look like long, sharp skulls for heads. There is even one scene in which Larson and Hiddleston’s characters come face-to-face with Kong, and they are blown away by the sheer fact of Kong’s existence rather than the threat that the ape poses to them. Kong simply stares at the two of them and peacefully walks away. Some may view this scene as cheesy, especially in the midst of a chase from blood-thirsty creatures, but I think that it only added to the overall message of the film. King Kong was never the enemy! Mind blown. Given this idea, I am not sure how Universal plans on filming a Godzilla v. Kong movie with a giant ape who is only vicious when placed in danger, and therefore not really a monster, but what do I know?
Actually, the film reminded me of an adult version of The Iron Giant. I hope that most of you have seen this movie and remember it, because it is one of my favorite animated films of all time. Basically, in the midst of World War II, a giant robot crash lands in New England, and although the docile robot befriends a young boy and displays his gentle and hero-like nature, the U.S. army attempts to destroy him, believing the Iron Giant to be a weapon created by Russia to destroy the United States. Now, in Kong: Skull Island, although the first encounter with the ape is rife with danger, we learn that Kong is just doing his best to protect Skull Island from far more threatening creature. However, General Packard is still intent on seeing Kong die, no matter how docile Kong actually is to those who respect his duty and his territory.
If there is one thing that I wasn’t expecting from this movie, it was anti-war sentiments, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I came to watch some action, saw unbelievable hurricanes, gigantic spiders, and evil pterodactyl-like creatures, but I came away feeling as though I had learned an important lesson. While there is no denying that I enjoyed the eminent danger and the crazy-cool animation, my favorite part of the entire film was its underlying theme of peace and coexistence.
I would highly recommend this film to anyone looking for some excitement and humor while experiencing an innovative plotline. Although a lot of scenes might be scary for young kids (see above: gigantic spiders and evil pterodactyl-like creatures, to name a couple), I believe that almost everyone else can find something to enjoy. This was a different movie-going experience than Beauty and the Beast, certainly, but worthwhile all the same!
Have any of you seen Kong: Skull Island? Let me know your thoughts…
And Don’t Forget to Make It Meghan!