Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Corey Hawkins, Shea Whigham and Toby Kebbell
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly
Original Year of Release: 2017
Run Time: 120 minutes
If you look at Kong: Skull Island in Warner Brothers’ “MonsterVerse” if bears a strange resemblance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe early days. No, I’m not counting the fact that Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), and Corpsmen Dey (John C. Reilly) are all present. What I see is that Warner Brothers started with their own big green guy, Godzilla (2014), like Marvel, did with The Hulk (2003 and again in 2008) and found a better success in King Kong, like Marvel had with Iron Man (2008). Why? It looks as if the pressure was off and the creative team had free reign.
Yes, Kong: Skull Island is the second film in Warner Brothers MonsterVerse (not to be confused with Universal Studios’ Dark Universe). The connection here is not so much that Godzilla pops up in the last frame, a la Freddy Kruger in Jason Goes to Hell, but that there is an organization in both films called Monarch. “Monarch was formed in secrecy in 1946 as a joint coalition between several governments in order to hunt and study massive unidentified terrestrial organisms” (according to the Godzilla Wiki). The first MonsterVerse film was Godzilla, but that film was set today. Kong: Skull Island is set in 1973 and starts with one man’s obsession, Bill Randa (John Goodman), who wants to prove how his shipmates died so many years ago by a giant creature. A team is assembled with a tracker, Conrad (Hiddleston), a photographer, Weaver (Larson), and an angry Colonel, Packard (Jackson) to investigate a strange island. As you may have guessed, they come to Skull Island, and provoke the King of the island, Kong.
To the credit of the creative team involved, we get a great sense of these characters before we see our first giant monkey or dangerous monster. Even the Colonel’s Air Cavalry Team is fully flushed out, so when things all go to hell, we actually care about these people. Yet, the kicker to what makes Kong: Skull Island stand out is that the film is fun. This is accomplished by embracing the cliches of this type of film and allowing the characters to say what the audience is actually thinking. So when you are about to check out with the ridiculousness of the whole situation, you are brought back into it by the characters living it.
This formula: cliches, humor, and characters we care about actually working is the key to the MonsterVerse succeeding. They were not present in 2012’s Godzilla. That film was a string of escapes by one character who just happened to be present and these impossible events. We had no real sense of comradery like Kong provided for the characters. All Godzilla did was establish a universe as to why certain oversized beasts, like Kong and Godzilla, maintain the status quo, overall it was forgettable. The whole concept, in the modern world of movies and instant gratification, of giant monsters slugging it out on screen, is a bit ridiculous. In using Kong: Skull Island as a template, the ground work for Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah will work without the big two being present.
As I said earlier, this film is fun. It shouldn’t work yet I found myself instantly entertained. When it debuted in the spring of 2017, I thought for certain that Warner Brothers was either cashing in on a light weekend at the box office (no competition) or getting rid of a stink bomb with no competition from Superheroes Sequels or Disney Movies. Instead what they delivered was what a lot of the Summer of 2017 was missing, a fun movie. Yes, in some ways it was a sequel and or part of a universe film, but this film, like Iron Man, righted the ship that another film established. I for one am looking forward to what Warner Brother’s has lined up for us next more than I did after Godzilla arrived. Which is currently titled the Godzilla Sequel (2019). Hopefully, the MonsterVerse show runners will keep the Kong formula in place moving forward. I also want to see how they bring the likes of the 1973 Monarch team, who will have aged considerably by 2012 into the fold of the story. Perhaps they won’t be a part of today’s adventure, but fight the good fight in the cinematic past against the likes of Guiron or Space Gyaos. Right now, anything thing seems possible.
Own Kong: Skull Island on Ultra HD Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on July 18 or Own it Early on Digital on June 20!
Love the music by Henry Jackman in Kong: Skull Island? Check out our review here!