This film surpasses expectations and the seemingly ‘generic’ premise of man VS monster to become a film that is more entertaining than it initially appears. Kong: Skull Island is a great example of how inspired writing and visionary directing can transform a potentially mindless monster flick into a film holding impact, substance and excitement. The story engages you, the characters grow on you, the setting intrigues you and Kong in general delivers everything you expect and than some.
The plot is straight forward; it is 1973 and utilising the threat of the Russians, a group of scientists convince their government to sanction and assist in a research expedition to an uncharted island. With the Russians about to discover the Island as well, the American government is left with little choice but to support the expedition before being discovered by the Russians. Unbeknownst to everyone besides the leading scientist of Monarch, the island that they journey to is one filled with creatures of monstrous proportions. The goal of Monarch is to prove the existence of monsters and determine whether they are a threat to humanity. Kong is such an existence and after the groups initial encounter with Kong, they find themselves stuck on the island and separated.
The characters supporting the film are driven by different goals and with the characters whose goals conflict, division is born. Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Riley are the standouts of the film and they both represent contrasting roles when it comes to Kong. Jackson and Riley embody their roles so passionately and characteristically that you can’t help but be enchanted by their natural charm. Despite Jackson’s character (Packard) being completely antagonist towards Kong that he becomes narrow-minded to the point of making Kong his ‘Moby Dick’, it is hard to hate his character. Packard’s reasons are genuine and understandable regardless of the morality attached to them, and yeah it is hard to dislike Samuel L. Jackson in general. Contrastingly, John C. Riley’s character (Hank) represents the supportive faction for Kong who understands what Kong means to not only the island but the safety of the world thanks to his 28 years living on Skull Island. His character knows the dangers the Skull Crawlers pose and what would happen if their biggest threat i.e. Kong, is gone.
Another intriguing character is Mason Weaver played by the fantastic Brie Larson. We learn about Mason Weaver through the camera she wields. Unlike Packard or Hank, Mason’s relevance isn’t directly related to Kong yet her relevance as a character within the story is substantial yet presented in a subtle manner. It is through what Mason observes and what she draws attention to that we come to learn about the natives lifestyle and culture. This in turn reflects back on Mason conveying to the audience what her own values are. Even if it is not explicitly stated, we come to understand the respect Mason has for life and how she approaches her journalistic work. Her ultimate decision at the end supports all that we learn about Mason and even inspires the viewer to respect her character more. I admit Mason could have been focused on more but I didn’t mind the supportive focus she got through her observation.
Tom Hiddleston’s character, James Conrad, while the main character, is largely underwhelming. I mean he is relevant and gets some decent action sequences to be highlighted in but overall, James as a character is forgettable when alongside the likes of Packard, Hank and Mason. Once the film ended, I tried to remind myself what his role was again and why he was even needed. He is the tracker, but tracking was such a background focus, it was hard to appreciate the value James actually brought as a character. The chemistry between James and Mason was good but the audience weren’t even given the opportunity to get to know who James is. He desperately could have used more dialog to help the audience connect with him and to convey his general presence.
Moving onto the battle sequences, they were fantastic, especially the initial helicopter scene when Kong is introduced in all his glory and ferocity. Kong embodied the gigantic beast he was in that moment and how adapt he can be at learning from new encounters. Within that mammoth existence though, lies the heart of a compassionate creature who understands, respects and appreciates coexistence. These qualities are reflected through the natives who worship Kong and his deceased family as Gods. Through them we come to understand the lengths Kong and his family have gone to to protect their home and the lives that exist on the Island.
Overall, Kong: Skull Island manages to exceed expectations and the smart presentation manages to heighten the intensity and thrill of witnessing Kong in battle throughout his encounters. If you are looking for a fun, action-packed adventure to cast your attention into, you will be surprisingly entertained by Kong: Skull Island.
Enjoyment level: 8/10