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King of the Cinema

“Kong: Skull Island” goes bananas on the action and makes it fun.

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"Kong: SKull Island" (Warner Bros.)

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"Kong: SKull Island" (Warner Bros.)

Ross Siev, Contributing Writer

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Hidden somewhere in the ocean lies a mysterious island where life isn’t affected by outside forces. Despite this, Hollywood keeps finding a way to visit this island over and over again.

A move away from the classic 1930s-style theme, “Kong: Skull Island” doesn’t reinvigorate the typical King Kong formula. Instead, it regurgitates generic monster stories, but keeps it entertaining to watch.

Reeling in from American troops pulling out of the Vietnam War, characters who are for or against the war provide a much daring change to the theme. Generally, the story of King Kong involves capturing a giant ape during the 1930s.

Acting as a set-up for the inevitable duel between Godzilla and King Kong coming in 2020, “Skull Island” is an improvement from the depressing 2014 “Godzilla,” reboot as it mainly focuses on the titular monster while also providing a well-rounded cast of fun and interesting human characters.

Monster movies are back on the rise. With the likes of Godzilla pleasing a lot of nerds through CGI monster fights and sequels on the way, Legendary Entertainment is seeking to jump on this fad through exploring this cinematic universe.

But by shifting King Kong into being a misunderstood animal who fights other monsters, the ape’s legendary status has been devolved down to a B-movie esque romp. Originally a tale of a tragic beast with some comparisons to animal detainment, Kong is now an understood monster defending himself and a tribe of natives from dinosaur-like creatures called the Skullcrawlers.

Each of the main stars, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and John C. Reilly, provide some sense of fun while also having some interesting character backgrounds.

There is a heavy focus on the Vietnam War setting throughout the first act of the film, as it quickly sets up each character before they delve into a tropical jungle filled with predatory monsters. By this point, you’ll nearly forget that you’re watching a Kong film.

Conspiracy theorist, and part of an organization dealing with the paranormal, Bill Randa (John Goodman) must prove that monsters exist. The only way to do this is by assembling a ragtag team of soldiers and scientists, and place these hapless victims on the mysterious Skull Island.

Through the first thirty minutes, character introductions are quickly introduced with their motivations being a main drive once they arrive on the island. For example, Lt. Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) is still upset from America pulling out of the Vietnam War, and goes on a vengeful path to kill Kong after a terrific action sequence of helicopters vs. ape.

The only main two characters who don’t fully fit the story are Tom Hiddleston, who plays a retired British special forces tracker, and Brie Larson, who is a pacifist, anti-war photographer and Kong’s main love interest. Afterall, Kong should keep some of his original character.

The secondary characters are filled with little characterization beyond being overly scared or not-at-all interesting. The soldiers are filled with cliché Vietnam War film characterization –  but that’s the point when basing “Skull Island” off of typical war movies.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, alongside with cinematographer Larry Fong, provide artistic scenes in all of its CGI-style glory. From its quiet moments to tension-building scenes, certain shots bring out the prettiness of the horrific island. The pretty moments shine through the gratuitous carnage and comedic scenes.

Since this was a B-style move with an A-move budget, the move into the Vietnam War theme provides a sense of fun that a monster movie always needed. John C. Reilly provides the comedic lines, Tom Hiddleston plays it straight, and Samuel L. Jackson, as always, gets mad. Each actor has strong suits that make “Skull Island” into a highly enjoyable adventure through the otherwise dangerous and mysterious jungle.

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