King Kong is back, and he’s definitely worth your money

The latest Kong film, “Kong: Skull Island” is stunning, frightening, dramatic and funny.


“Kong: Skull Island” stars Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston and John Goodman. Image Courtesy of Legendary Entertainment.

By Mark Lu

The first film ever about a giant gorilla batting angrily at aircraft first came out in 1933. Since then, along with the Japanese monster Godzilla, King Kong has been an icon in film history, revolutionizing, if not setting off, the long string of giant monster films that would ultimately follow it.

In 1962, Japanese director Ishiro Honda featured both iconic monsters in a film, “Godzilla vs. King Kong,” a movie that is currently being made with modern filmmaking, set to release in 2020. In 1967, a movie called “King Kong Escapes,” featuring a battle between Kong and a robot replica of himself was released. And in 2005, “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson led the way for a modern King Kong that was well received by critics and audiences.

Although the original King Kong storyline has been changed somewhat, the basic outline is this: in an America at the turn of the 18th century, three people, one of whom must be a blonde, travel to an unknown island on which Kong lives. Toward the end, Kong climbs the Empire State Building while World War I era airplanes shoot at him. This storyline is iconic, and has been modeled after by countless films.

“Kong: Skull Island” leaves behind this traditional plotline and instead sets itself in more modern times, immediately after the Vietnam War. A battle-loving army commander played by Samuel L. Jackson and his team escort a team of explorers, some of which include former British Special Forces Captain James Conrad, played by Tom Hiddleston, a formidable photographer Mason Bates, played by Brie Larson, secret-harboring archaeologist Bill Randa, played by John Goodman. On the island, they meet a refuged World War II pilot, played by John C. Reilly, who can help them escape.

The cast is extremely talented and delivers perfect performances despite rather banal character design. The film satisfies the wants of the audience like any character-based adventure/action movie would. For example, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston, the two attractive actors of the team, obviously fit well together. The more nerdy characters work well together. Regardless of the trite character elements, it’s obvious that the cast has chemistry and are charismatic together on-screen, letting the audience care about them.

One thing that stands out in “Kong: Skull Island” that sets itself apart from other King Kong movies is the cinematography. The director and DP (Director of Photography) understand that this film takes place in a more modern setting, and adjusts it to fit the hot, muggy, unclear nature of the drama taking place. Many scenes are filmed with pugnacious, Vietnam War-esque styles, as if this were more serious of an action film. The realness of each scene was emphasized through the intense color correction, the warlike unknowing that the island presents.

In addition to the cinematography, the visual effects are absolutely spectacular. Kong legitimately looks like a giant ape. When I watched the movie in the theater, I wasn’t looking for mistakes in the FX or sitting back in my chair because Kong looked like an animated Harambe. It’s evident that the CGI crew put more than enough resources and energy into making a giant gorilla look like, well, a giant gorilla. Of course, the mystical, visually-stunning cinematography helped with Kong’s look, but overall, it definitely is an upgrade from the 2005 film.

And finally, the fight scenes. The 2014 remake of “Godzilla” is my favorite big-monster movie of all time, because it glorified the idea of Godzilla, teasing his tremendousness, saving the powerful fighting for the finale, making the action sequences all the more thrilling. The buildup from the point of view of the characters on the ground helped make the final battle an exhilarating sight to behold. “Kong: Skull Island,” instead shows Kong, in all his glory, right away, introducing his ferocity right as our heroes show up. This dulled the fighting, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still amazing to watch. With the cinematographic identity and stunning visual effects, the fighting scenes were nail-biting and fantastic.

Despite minor banalities in the characters and the plot, “Kong: Skull Island” redeems itself with an excellent portrayal of Kong and does justice to the iconic monster. 8.5/10