Thursday Night Movie Club
Kong: Skull Island
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Release Date: 10 March 2017

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Tom Hiddleston
Samuel L. Jackson
Brie Larson
John C. Reilly
John Goodman
Corey Hawkins
John Ortiz
Tian Jing
Toby Kebbell
Jason Mitchell
Shea Whigham
Thomas Mann
Eugene Cordero
Marc Evan Jackson
Will Brittain
James Conrad
Preston Packard
Mason Weaver
Hank Marlow
Bill Randa
Houston Brooks
Victor Nieves
Jack Chapman/Kong
Landsat Steve
Young Marlow/Marlow's Son
Kong: Skull Island movie poster Kong: Skull Island movie poster Kong: Skull Island movie poster
Kong stars in Kong: Skull IslandAny film based on the legend of King Kong is a tricky enterprise. The original classic film is so perfect that subsequent films will be judged on how well it stands up to the original. Kong: Skull Island is an excellent film. The film honors the original while providing plenty of surprises along the way. The effects shots are spectacular. Several are very inventive. Kong himself is very impressive.

Interestingly, Kong: Skull Island takes place partly during World War II, as a back story, but mostly during the final days of the Vietnam War. During an airbattle with a Japanese pilot, Hank Marlow (Will Brittan) is shot down over an uncharted island. The Japanese pilot with whom he was dueling has also crashed on the same island. The two men continue to battle each other through the jungle. Their struggle is interrupted by Kong. The two former adversaries have a new and much more dangerous enemy to contend with.

At the end of the Vietnam War, Bill Randa (John Goodman) and geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are meeting with Senator Willis (Richard Jenkins). Randa and Brooks are members of a secretive government agency to investigate the unknown. Through satellite images, the two have located an uncharted island. They eventually convince Senator Willis to form an exploratory expedition to find out what is there. Randa, however, has another agenda that he is keeping only to himself.

Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson stars in Kong: Skull IslandJoining the expedition is ex-British Special Services Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). Conrad is an excellent guide to lead the expedition through who knows what. Documenting the discoveries is war photo journalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). Weaver specializes in anti-war photography. For protection against unforseen dangers, Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his squadron of Sky Devils is ordered to accompany the expedition. Packard seems lost now that the war has ended. There is nothing waiting for him at home. Packard is a soldier without a cause. He gleefully accepts the mission. The expedition is specially equipped with seismic bombs that geologist Brooks will use to map the underground structure of the island.

When they reach the island, helicopters must pass through a hurrican-force storm that perpetually surrounds the island. Inexplicably, the helicopters fly through the storm. Supposedly the storm is too high for helicopters to fly over. On the other hand, the storm is the first fantastic special effects sequence. Once clear of the storm, the men discover an idyllic paradise. The helicopters split up and begin dropping the seismic bombs.

Kong stars in Kong: Skull IslandRanda achieves more than he could possibly imagine. His suspicions prove correct. There are strange, unknown creatures inhabiting the Earth. Kong, a gigantic ape creature appears to investigate the sudden explosions on his island. Perceiving the flying objects as threats, Kong savagely attacks. The sequence of Kong's devastation are spectacular.

One sequence is a point-of-view shot out of the side of a helicopter. The helicopter flies along when it is suddenly stopped in mid-air. Suddenly, the camera/helicopter is facing straight down. The perspective rights itself only to have the occupants staring into the face of Kong!

Another point-of-view shot is straight ahead out of the helicopter cockpit. In the background, Kong grabs another helicopter and hurls it at the first helicopter. The P.O.V. collision is stunning and quite chilling. The expedition is scattered throughout this unknown landscape with no escape for three days. The expedition is now one of survival.

Some of the survivors in Kong: Skull IslandRanda is hell-bent on completing the mission. Proof of the existence of monters must make it back to civilization so authorities can adequately prepare for any subsequent encounter. Career militaryman Packard knows an enemy when he sees one. Kong must be destroyed at all costs. Packard's growing obsession endangers the survivors, many of whom are civilians. The decision is simple. Conrad will lead the civilians to the rendezvous point. Packard will gather his remaining forces and use the seismic bombs to destroy Kong.

However, more than half of the film still remains. Kong: Skull Island has many, many surprises left to release on the unsuspecting audience. Kong is not the only amazing creature on the island. In a throwback to a cut scene from the original, survivors are attacked by a gigantic spider. A soldier by himself, sits down on a log only to find the log is actually a grasshopper-type creature that disguises itself as a log. Flying pterodactyls attack from the air. The expedition faces constant danger. These sequences are equally spectacular.

Conrad, Mason and the other scientists make another amazing discovery. There aren't alone. They come upon the ruins of a human civilization only to discover the humans are still living there. On the verge of being killed by the natives, Conrad, Mason, and the others are saved by Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly). Marlow has been befriended by the natives. Although he still does not know the language, Marlow has learned how the island works.

Skull Island is populated by many fantastic creatures. Kong rules over all keeping the balance of nature intact. The human intrusion has upset the delicate balance. The humans have unknowingly awoken the most dangerous creatures on the island. Marlow has given the creatures the name of Skull Crawlers. Kong is able to defeat the smaller ones. But there is one large Skull Crawler that Kong cannot beat.

Thus, the main conflict of Kong: Skull Island is revealed. Kong must be saved. Packard has to be stopped. If Kong dies, the result could mean the end of every living creature on the surface from the ravenous Skull Crawlers. Packard is so obsessed that stopping him will be difficult. Packard has loyal men and weapons at his disposal. Will people do what is right or what is easy?

Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston and Kong star in Kong: Skull IslandDirector Jordan Vogt-Roberts has helmed an amazing film. The screenplay is top-notch. Kong is treated with honor and respect from a movie perspective. Kong is a complex creature. Not a cartoonish character. In a truly beautiful moment in the film, Conrad and Weaver have climbed a mountain to get the lay of the land. Out of a fog bank, Kong slowly approaches them and stops right in front of them. Watching Kong's expression shows a little of Kong's conflict. Conrad and Weaver are no threat to him. Maybe not all of these new creatures are evil. Kong slowly retreats disappearing into the fog. The shot is touching, emotional and beautifully photographed.

Skull Crawler in Kong: Skull IslandThe final battle between Kong and the largest Skull Crawler is the highlight of the film. Kong knows he is fighting a losing battle. But he has no choice. Kong must fight anyway. In a truly wonderful sequence, the Skull Crawler throws Kong into the wreckage of an old ship. Kong finds himself trapped in the anchor chain. The Skull Crawler is about to kill Kong when the little creatures come to his rescue.

Better still, Kong breaks free of the chain. He yanks on the chain pulling up the ship's propeller attached to the chain. In a wonderful moment, Kong looks at the swinging propeller and slowly realizes that this piece of human ingenuity is exactly what he needs to slay the Skull Crawler. Kong's gestures and expressions are perfectly captured on film.

An effects shot from Kong: Skull IslandThe cinematography is fantastic. The landscapes are beautiful and serene yet dangerous and deadly at every turn. Modern technology makes it impossible to know where the real landscape ends and the visual effects begin. Another visual highlight is the story of Kong and the Skull Crawlers. Artwork is painted on various rocks and posts. The full photo is only revealed when the viewer stands at the right spot, similar to a Glozzle puzzle. As the camera pans, the image is revealed from what seemed to be random flecks of paint.

For any creature film to be successful, the actors have to play their parts perfectly. The actors must believe in what they are seeing. They cannot, under any circumstances, over emote to the point of comedy. Remember the horrible Dino de Laurentis "King Kong". In Kong: Skull Island, each character is well developed. Each actor takes his/her part seriously and acts in accordance with their character. There is no wild screaming. No moments of panic. In a struggle for survival, there is no place for panic. Form a plan. Stick to the plan.

John C. Reilly stands out among the cast. Hank Marlow has been on the island too long without anyone to speak with. The natives remain silent. Marlow's humor comes out of left field. Reilly delivers Marlow's best line with a deadpan delivery undercut with a giggle. "You shouldn't have come here.", he says matter-of-factly. Truer words have never been spoken. Hilarious.

Samuel L. Jackson sufficiently enderplays his role of Packard. All Packard knows is the military way. When confronted with a perceived threat, the military instinct takes over. Packard is intimidating at first. He threatens Randa at gunpoint to tell him everything he isn't telling them. From Jackson's performance, there is no doubt Packard will kill Randa if he doesn't like Randa's answers. As the film unfolds, Packard slowly loses his military intincts for obsession. Kill Kong first! Survival second. His men slowly come to doubt his leadership as they are expendable.

The remainder of the cast is quite good yet their main purpose is to move the story along. Tom Hiddleston's Conrad is no dummy. When Conrad meets Randa, he knows Randa isn't telling him everything. He raises his asking price, in advance, with a special huge bonus "if they return". Brie Larson has nothing to do in this film except have a female presence. When Mason arrives at the ship, the men are surprised to learn Mason is a woman. That is all Mason is, a woman.

Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston in Kong: Skull IslandIf there is one failing in Kong: Skull Island, the actors really don't have much to do once the expedition fails. Much of the middle parts of the film are similar to shots in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". Actors look on, silently, in disbelief as the camera whirls around them. It seems at least one of the characters would utter, "What the...?".

Kong: Skull Island is made by the same production company as "Godzilla". Any guesses as to how this film ends? In the meantime, Kong: Skull Island is an excellent adventure/action film. The cinematography is stellar. unlike Godzilla, Kong dominates in his picture. Kong is a complex creature rather than a mere stomping brute. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts' reverence and respect for the original film and the legend of Kong elevate Kong: Skull Island to a higher level. The bar was set high. Kong: Skull Island is up to the task! Enjoy!