Thursday, July 13, 2017

In short: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Apparently, Legendary is one of the major Hollywood studios who have their heads on screwed straight when it comes to creating the now mandatory blockbuster universe. At least in so far as the studio seems to realize that one of these shared universe films really needs to be a satisfying film all of its own, with the universe building a secondary element (see also the way Marvel operates). Narrative pay-offs of shared universes, if a company even cares, should really come in later films, and not be the aim of all of them.

As big damn effects cinema, Skull Island stands directly in the shoes of the original 1933 King Kong, which to my eyes always played as an effects extravaganza first and foremost. So this Kong delights with as many moments of various CGI giants slugging it out as can sensibly be packed into a two hour running time – yes, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts even manages to keep the runtime creep in check while also finding the time for some moments of awe and wonder. Given the budget, these scenes are expectedly sexy to look at, but they are also dynamically and excitingly directed. Why, even the action scenes including human beings just work.

Speaking of human beings, while the film clearly comes down on the side of the – in about ninety percent of all cases perfectly accurate - opinion that the audience of a film about giant monsters wants to see said giant monsters first and foremost, the classic pulp adventure business happening with the human beings is actually rather enjoyable too, and while characters and plot are broad and a bit silly (as is perfectly logical and appropriate for the tradition the film stands in), it’s the right kind of broadness, with larger than life characters doing larger than life things.

Samuel L. Jackson is obviously perfect for being Kong’s Captain Ahab, seeing how expert he has become at the right kind of scenery chewing for this sort of big budget monster movie, but there’s also some highly enjoyable work by John Goodman (who even gets a few monologues that suggest Legendary’s giant monster movie Earth is a rather Lovecraftian place) and John C. Reilly, as well as by Brie Larson (who gets more to do than I expected/feared and to whose outing as Captain Marvel I now look rather forward) and Tom Hiddleston. Of course, I am not one of those movie buffs who love to whine about how the blockbuster universes “cost us” incredible movie actors, because it’s not as if playing in this sort of film were easy (just look at how embarrassing otherwise good actors like Morgan Freeman can be in them) or would make it impossible to appear in smaller movies; it’s not as if there weren’t other actors around either. Instead, I’m happy about how even in the most technocratic of surroundings, a good cast still makes a difference.

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