Is that a monkey?


Matt Gill, North Staff Writer


Early this month marked the release of Kong: Skull Island, a reimagining of the classic story of  a giant ape destroying other giant creatures in a giant way.

The film, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer), is the second movie in Warner Bros. “MonsterVerse,” which is a Marvel-esque interconnected movie universe consisting of King Kong and Godzilla. The universe was first established by Gareth Edward’s Godzilla reboot from back in 2014.

The film, set in the 1970s and the aftermath of Vietnam, follows a team consisting of scientists (John Goodman and Corey Hawkins), a British ex-military mercenary (Tom Hiddleston), a pacifist war photographer (Brie Larson), and Vietnam war soldiers (Samuel L. Jackson, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Wingham, Thomas Mann, and Eugene Cordero) as they patrol through a previously undiscovered island in the South Pacific. The official story is that they are surveying the geology of the island, but the actual story that is not revealed by the scientists to the soldiers is that they are looking for monsters on the island.

Their antics on the island attract the wrath of Kong who attacks the team and splits them into two smaller groups. On their way back to the rendezvous one group, consisting of Hiddleston, Larson, and a couple of the soldiers, meet Mr. Comic Relief himself, Hank Marlow (played brilliantly by John C. Reilly), who was a WWII pilot who crash-landed on the island during the war and has been marooned ever since. Reilly’s character is found living among a tribe of mute natives who revere Kong as a god who protects them from even more dangerous creatures that live below the earth.

Jackson’s character, after taking stock of how many of his men Kong has killed, becomes the proverbial Ahab of the movie with Kong as his White Whale. The rest of the movie follows the two groups as they race to decide the fate of Kong.

In terms of monster movies, this one is different from ones in recent memory. Kong is not the sole focus of the film and is not shoved down the throat of the audience at every possible moment. Instead, the film revolves around the human characters and the relationships that develop between them.

Aside from a few lulls in the story and a few clunky exchanges of dialogue, the plot is on par and the writing is solid. The special effects are serviceable, but what really stood out to me was the level of sound design that went into the film.

The use of various sounds from the ambient to the music that was used in different scenes all offered a refreshing level of immersion that I think is missing from a lot of movies, not just monster movies these days. It’s not all just screaming and loud music, though those are present as well in the film.

Throughout the film there are several scenes that are filmed with 35mm cameras that adds to the film’s vintage aesthetic and would be cute if displayed in small doses, but it feels like they went overboard with them. Like  they really wanted to emphasize the fact that this was a period piece. Other than that, the cinematography is decent and the camera work is smooth.

On the whole, the movie may not be nominated for any Oscars; it does have its fair share of quirks, but it is a fun movie that should be seen by anyone who is a fan of giant apes destroying other giant creatures in a giant way.