Kong: Skull Island Review

When my boyfriend and I decided to go the pictures last week we chose this film because there wasn’t much else on and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. The previous film, ‘King Kong’ had made me cry so much that I no longer watch the ending; but my main concern with regards to this film wasn’t the emotional turmoil but the fear that this adaptation would shallow out the film. The previous King Kong films tended to hold a deeper meaning, questioning human nature, feelings of entitlement and criticisms of colonisation.

However, after shoving a load of popcorn in my face and experiencing a whole spectrum of emotions, from laughter to tears to frustration I can safely say that Kong: Skull Island did not disappoint, especially on the depth front.

The film was immediately deepened by a sense of realism, absent in many other action films. The characters were brilliantly complex, helped by fantastic acting. Instead of the token ‘I’m violent, never miss a shot, make smouldering looks every two minutes and have a voice deeper than Batman’ brute, Tom Hiddleston, brought us a pensive, tactical and compassionate character, who was additionally skilled in combat. Samuel L. Jackson impressed again, with another fantastically frustrating and complex role. Brie Larson, previously seen in films such as ‘Room’ and ’21 Jump Street’, moved away from the previous films’ damsel in distress roles and instead gave us a strong, brave and intelligent woman to root for.

Thrown into this already strange mix of actors came John C Reilly, who added another dimension to the film and whose use of one-liners and humour added comic relief throughout the narrative, as well as enhancing his eccentric character. I was also surprised to see Toby Kebbell in the film, an absolute icon to me since his hilarious and contemplative role as Johnny Quid in ‘Rock n Rolla’.

Despite this fantastic set of performances, it was Kong himself who stole the show as, despite being unspoken, I feel he had the best personality in the film. Kong was presented to audiences with unbelievably detailed and realistic special effects. The visual mastery didn’t end with Kong however and extended across the rest of the film; beautiful scenic shots and artistic camera work, immediately set the film apart from the run-of-the-mill action film. With the film’s colour palette and style reminding me of ‘Apocalypse Now’ and the use of natural filmic settings to add atmosphere, I immediately felt that this film would be a lot more pensive and inquisitive than the usual action film. 

And I was right, the film readdressed issues posed by previous films and took them a step further. Set in the 70’s with a focus on the end of the Vietnam War, you immediately feel the critique of violence and the nagging ache that the destruction that occurs in the film is wrong. Whilst you could argue that this critique is focused on problems around the Vietnam War, I would argue that this is just as relevant in today’s political climate. As well as criticising violence in war, the film draws our attention to colonisation and the destructive consequences of self-entitlement; with character names relating to the canonical novel ‘Heart of Darkness’ such as Conrad, after the famous author himself and the novel’s main character, Marlow.

However, one major criticism I have of this film is with regards to the presentation of the indigenous population. The main issue I have had with the previous Kong films is that despite highlighting issues of imposing culture – for example, in the 2005 film, the scene where Jack Black for whatever reason tries to force a little girl to eat chocolate, this group of indigenous people are presented as savage, murderous and voiceless. Unfortunately, I still have this issue with the new adaptation, where a voiceless indigenous group’s beliefs are described by a white man.

After being dazzled by the spectacle and grandeur of Kong: Skull Island I still recognise a few cultural issues with it which continue to play on my mind. Despite these issues, I would definitely recommend this film, but would say watch with a critical mind and you will catch a lot more of the deeper messages. Or if you want to rest your brain, just enjoy the soundtrack, the diverse use of brilliant music, intertwined with the narrative equaled that of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’!