• Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Wed Mar 15 14:53:56 2017
    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: KONG: SKULL ISLAND has its share of excitement
    and effective acting, but the film does not fit with
    any other Kong film ever made as prequel, sequel or
    coquel. The script is creative where it needs to be
    and funny where it needs to be. If you think you
    wouldn't like a live-action film about a hundred-foot
    ape, you won't. If you think you would like the film,
    you will. If you are not sure, you might want to give
    it a try. At best it is a joy ride and at worst it is
    at least goofy. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

    At a hundred feet the Kong in KONG: SKULL ISLAND is too darn big.
    If you give a young girl a Barbie(r) doll she will dress it and
    give some thought to its appearance. In short, she will have a
    sort of relationship with it. Give the same girl a Lego(r) person
    and there will be little she can do with it except move it around.
    There is too much difference in size scale. In the 1933 KING KONG
    the size ratio between Kong and Ann is about the same as the ratio
    of the little girl to the Barbie(r) doll. The blond girl whose
    trunk fits comfortably into his paw intrigues Kong. Kong certainly
    has some interest in Ann that he probably would not have if Ann
    were the size of the last joint on his little finger. The new Kong
    is a hundred feet tall, according to director Jordon Vogt-Roberts.
    With kaiju proportions Kong would have a body falling apart of its
    own weight by the square-cube law. More importantly the beast can
    have little emotional connection with six-foot humans on the island
    or in the audience. We see him in only two states, placid and
    angry. Even the 1976 version of King Kong showed more range of
    emotion. Kong here has no conscience, no affection, only the
    barest personality. That is not my idea of King Kong. It would
    have been a better film if they had named the chief monster
    something like Gorga rather than disappointing expectations by
    making the super-giant ape Kong.

    The film opens in 1944 with an American and a Japanese plane in a
    dogfight. They both crash on an unknown Pacific island. On the
    ground the two pilots are fighting to the death when they are
    interrupted by ... can you guess? This strand of plot is
    abandoned, to have connections later in the story. Twenty-nine
    years later an apparent crackpot James Conrad (played by John
    Goodman) has been trying repeatedly to have the get an expedition
    to a nearly unknown island charmingly called "Skull Island." When
    the expedition is finally approved a team is put together including
    James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and helicopter commander Preston
    Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). It is joined by Mason Weaver (Brie
    Larson) who wants to expose the secret operation. One last member
    joins the group well into the story, but not too late to steal the
    rest of the film. John C. Reilly plays Hank Marlow, just a little
    charmingly deranged. Together the team will face the dangers of
    the island that time forgot. It is a better cast than this film
    would have needed, but it will probably pay off at the box-office.

    The script by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly has
    some original ideas and visual images we have not seen before, but
    also there are little touches we have seen in previous Kong films.
    Kong kills a creature by breaking its jaw and then checks to see
    the jaw is limp. We saw that in the 1933 version. Skull Island
    has gone undiscovered because it is eternally enshrouded in heavy
    clouds. That idea came from the 1976 version. In fact there are
    little shout-outs to all three US origin stories: 1933, 1976, and
    2005, as well as references to APOCALYPSE NOW.

    On the other hand, Kong's size called for some original thinking.
    For once Kong never carries a human anywhere for long because he is
    just too big and probably does not want red stuff and pulp all over
    his fingers. The island itself brings up more complexities than
    were thought through. The idea is raised that what we thought were
    Pacific nuclear tests were really attempts to kill monsters. That
    idea was borrowed from GODZILLA (2014). If that is true, who knew
    that the island was the home of monsters and how was it kept a
    secret if that was true? How did an island the size of Skull
    Island go undiscovered by all but the people doing the bomb test?
    The script could have used some doctoring before the film was shot.
    With such a great variety of kaiju-sized monsters on one island,
    the film has the feel of an (admittedly more detailed and
    realistically done) Toho film.

    On the positive side somebody was very imaginative with ideas for
    the fauna of the island. There are a lot of "What-the-heck--Oh-my-
    god!" reactions. There are moments that are a lot of fun.
    Overall, I rate KONG: SKULL ISLAND a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or
    6/10. The filmmakers have what must be nine or ten minutes of
    credit crawl at the end, but there is a coda at the end of it all.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper

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  • From David N. Butterworth@21:1/5 to All on Sat Apr 29 10:09:24 2017
    A film review by David N. Butterworth
    Copyright 2017 David N. Butterworth

    *1/2 (out of ****)

    Who doesn't love Brie Larson? (Other than Casey Affleck I mean.) She's
    The Indie Girl Next Door, after all, America's Dressed-Down
    Sweetheart--what's not to love? I'll tell you who does love Brie Larson:
    King Kong.
    Larson plays second banana to the monster monkey in "Kong: Skull Island,"
    the Fay Wray/Jessica Lange/Naomi Watts foil to a 100-foot gorilla courtesy Industrial Light & Magic. But despite having recently won an Oscar for
    "Room," she cannot save this 100-foot turkey. When she's not simply
    staring wide-eyed off camera at something big or gross or both, she's
    spouting lines of banal dialogue like (paraphrased) "I've filmed enough
    mass graves to know one when I see one." Actually, the giant simian
    skeletons and stench of death tipped us off.
    But Ms. Larson is not alone here. Nobody can save this film. Not
    John Goodman, as a shady government consultant who leads a team of
    explorers onto an uncharted island. Not Tom Hiddleston, as the perfectly-coiffed tracker he hires to run through the jungle (and not look back). Not even Samuel L. Jackson, whose team of vets provide the military escort. And especially not John C. Reilly, undoing a fine acting career in
    one fell sweep, as a whack job who's been living on the island since WWII.
    This lot are an embarrassment.
    The biggest problem with the film though is its direction (credited to
    one Jordan Vogt-Roberts). Who entrusts a $200 million movie to someone
    with a single independent feature to his credit? The question is
    rhetorical but the answer is Legendary. Vogt-Roberts is in so much of a
    hurry to get to the island and deliver the goods--Kong *is* a pretty
    amazing creation--that he tosses pacing and logic and character development aside and we never see them again. "Kong: Skull Island" is not so much
    edited as slapped together, scene after incoherent scene with no
    transitions, no continuity in tone, no rationale for being, no fact
    checking in sight. The military sequences are all faux Michael Bay, helicopters in slo-mo, grunts kicking back, CCR flooding the
    soundtrack--the film is set in 1973, just post Vietnam, so why not.
    Throughout, Larson's anti-war photographer clicks her camera, is
    awestruck, and smiles, awkwardly. Oh wait. She does notice that a massive water buffalo has been trapped by a fallen helicopter and tries to lift the entire smoking fuselage solo. Surprisingly, she is not strong enough. We
    love you Brie, but even you should have called a halt right there and questioned the senselessness of this undertaking.
    "Numbskull Island," anyone?

    David N. Butterworth

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