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Blu-ray Review: Kong: Skull Island

July 18, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The year is 1971, and monster researcher Bill Randa (John Goodman) has convinced the Nixon administration, still reeling from the Vietnam War, to fund his research trip to a hidden island in the South Pacific to investigate claims of an otherworldly beast.

To help him explore and map the uncharted land, Randa puts together a team including mercenary James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and army colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), who oversees a helicopter squadron.  What they find is a vast new ecosystem that houses a variety of bizarre creatures, overseen by the giant ape Kong, who serves as the King of the island and exists to keep other dangers at bay.

While Kong: Skull Island does pay tribute to the iconic 1933 King Kong, the film also cements itself as its own thing, serving as both a remake and reboot of the classic tale.  The film’s characterizations sometimes feel a little broad, with the core cast essentially playing archetypes, and the story here is fairly predictable.  But Kong: Skull Island works by harkening back to a type of Saturday Matinee filmmaking that doesn’t really get made anymore, and it’s inherently entertaining and fun to watch as such.

The film does away with the Beauty and the Beast-style romantic element of the original tale, instead offering a straight up action adventure that is chock full of monster movie thrills, while also paying tribute to the Vietnam War classic Apocalypse Now.  The special effects are impressive, delivering a Kong that is both massive in size, and also highly detailed and emotive when seen in closeups.  The cinematography gives the film an earthy visual look that harkens back to the 1970s, and the soundtrack is populated by classic rock hits from the decade that provide fun musical cues.

The screenplay is peppered with humour to keep the tone fairly light, and its matched by fine work from the all-star cast.  John Goodman, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson all deliver fun performances, and John C. Reilly steals every one of his scenes as an eccentric long-lost pilot who has been stranded on the island for years, and is living there as a hermit.  Elevated by its strong ensemble cast and cool 1970s vibe, Kong: Skull Island is a solid action adventure flick, that pays as much homage to Vietnam War movies as it does to classic monster films.

The Blu-ray also includes commentary by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, as well as several deleted scenes, and a selection of featurettes.  First up is the two-part “behind the scenes” piece Creating a King, which offers a general look at the production and special effects, On Location: Vietnam focuses on their shoot in the country, Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveller sees the actor taking us through some of the different locations, and Through the Lens: Brie Larson’s Photography focuses on the photos that she took on set, being given an actual film camera for her role.  Finally, Monarch Files 2.0 is a fictional archival piece that provides an overview of the island’s history and wildlife.

Kong: Skull Island is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release.  It’s 118 minutes and rated PG.


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