(Kong: Skull Island, 2017)
Warner Bros. Studios chooses universe over plot.
By Harry Faint
A large burnt orange sunset is a recurring image in Kong: Skull Island, the latest Monster flick in the soon to be monster-verse from Warner Bros. Studios. While this is one of many cinematic nods to the Vietnam War, (another being the iconic silhouetted helicopters reminiscent of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979)) the sun functions also by illuminating the visceral green, beautiful landscape of Skull Island in a timeless yellow hue, a land untouched by man – a rare image.
However, this hidden beauty is frequently punctured with unimaginable bloody violence, a stark difference to Kong’s previous endeavours on screen. The Vietnam War setting of the film is a refreshing change, allowing characters such as Samuel L. Jackson’s Preston Packard to embody the anxiety and loss felt after a war, unsure of who he is any more, stuck in the mindset of conflict. Tom Hiddleston slots into the typical hero role expected in these films, his introduction unsuccessfully avoids cliché as he fights a group of men in a bar with a pool cue with choreographed ease. Brie Larson is the landing party’s anti-war photographer who is inevitably the focus of Kong’s massive eyes.
While the visual splendour of the island and its prehistoric inhabitants are enticing, the plot of the film never amounts to anything of significant worth. The two groups separated by Kong’s initial, well-placed rage spend the film trying to reunite and reach the other side of the island for rescue. As per usual in “Monster” films, the giant beast is not the antagonist of the piece but humanity’s quest for dominance is, expressed through Samuel L. Jackson and John Goodman’s characters. As ever, nature fights back.
The lack of plot leaves the film to be driven by action alone, demoting the film to the level of cinematic insanity equated to films such as Sharknado (2013) and Mega Snake (2007). The films redeeming factors include the not-so-subtle nod to Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) as the spiders camouflaged bamboo leg pierces the throat of a solider without warning, as well as the slow motion sequences which avoid feeling overused as they always serve a purpose, highlighting the scale of the action and drawing attention to visually evocative moments without feeling unnatural.
James Mangold’s Logan (2017) was recently commended for being a successful film for not having to serve a grander narrative and cinematic universe. Sadly, this enterprise is detrimental to most blockbuster films in 2017, and Kong is no exception.