Review: Visually Stunning “Kong: Skull Island” Dazzles Audiences with Unparalleled Special Effects

Managing to capture the famous gorilla’s strength and enormity while delivering an emotional depth that most closely mirrors the original 1933 “King Kong’s” intentions, is what makes “Kong Skull Island” the superior film amongst the vast collection of King Kong reboots. Complete with stunning modern visuals, and booming sound effects “Skull Island” proves to be an epic theater experience.

Bill Randa, played by John Goodman, standing eerily among monster skeletons

Almost immediately concluding the Vietnam War, a group of soldiers led by General Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson) are tasked with leading a team compiled of an aloof tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), an adventurous photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) as well as others into the uncharted territory known as Skull Island. The mission was proposed by Bill Randa (John Goodman) who after being ridiculed for years on his beliefs that there are monsters sharing the Earth with us is hungry to prove his sanity.

When the humans enter the territory by helicopter they begin dropping explosives on Kong’s land but as veteran Hank Marlow, who’s been stuck on the island since World War 2 so obviously pointed out “Kong’s a pretty good king. Keeps to himself, mostly. This is his home, we’re just guests. But you don’t go into someone’s house and start dropping bombs, unless you’re picking a fight”

So what begins as an exploration mission quickly turns into a standoff battle between the humans and the beloved leader and protector of the island, King Kong himself.

Kong isn’t only battling for his land and  life this March, but he’s also fighting for revenue against blockbusters of equally epic proportions.  The film premiered only a week after DC superhero smash “Logan” hit theaters and only a week prior to the release of  “Beauty and the Beast” which has  hit the theaters to a warm welcome of $171m in opening weekend revenue.

“Skull Island’s” success is definitely derived from the film’s unparalleled big budget visuals. The subtleties and emotion conveyed on the face of the gorilla is something that pushes the visuals of the film above and beyond, as he stands up with, and sometimes even supersedes, the depth of his human acting counterparts. Never before have audiences seen the King, standing at 100 feet,  so detailed that the individual hairs matted with mud and blood are plainly visible.

While the design of King Kong’s appearance in this film was meant to be a sort

1933 King Kong Movie Poster

of throwback to the ‘33 version by making the model of the gorilla rather iconic and straightforward looking and also having the creature mobile by standing on its back legs, that’s about where the comparisons in animation stop.

Watching the original “King Kong” (1933) directly prior to viewing “Skull Island” proves to be a rather unbelievable experience. The King Kong franchise in its entirety presents an effective visual timeline of the immense progress made in cinematic visual effects and editing. Taking a look back into history, the mighty gorilla has always served as a vessel for the exploration of special effects.

Back in ‘33 theatre goers were dazzled by the effects in the original King Kong. The monster’s iconic booming roar came from a recording of a lion’s and a  tiger’s roar played backwards in slow motion and King Kong was brought to life, in his iconic towering of the Empire State Building, through stop motion animation. Animators smoothly moved the monster figurine compiled of rubber and foam covered in rabbit fur to interact with his faux NYC landscape which stood against matte paintings for background.

People were so infatuated with the original film that it brought on a string of sequels, reboots and re-dos. The 1976 version took home the  Oscar for Visual effects. Director John Guillerman upgraded from the techniques used in the 30s by bringing the gorilla to life through a combo of men in gorilla suits, the use of miniatures, and a hulking robotic version of Kong. A pair of 6 foot wide giant hydraulic hands had to be carefully built due to the risk of them clamping down suddenly on actress Jessica Lange.

More recently Peter Jackson, director of the “Lord of the Rings” films, took on the project of bringing the gorilla back to the big screen in 2005 and while the film was a huge success, acquiring three Academy Awards, the visuals do not compare to this film.

“Skull Island,” a highly elaborate and detailed theater experience, truly feels like a teleportation device that thrusts you into the thick mysterious jungle where unimaginable creatures appear before your very eyes. This type of detailed visual journey  was not a conceivable thought back in the 30s or 70s. It is difficult to imagine anything beyond what you are in awe of at the movie theaters but if cinematic history has shown us anything its that mass audiences only pay attention when presented with a film that is bigger and badder than what they saw last.

Keeping that in mind, viewers enthralled by the “Kong: Skull Island” theater experience can definitely get excited for an upcoming reboot of “Godzilla v. King Kong.” Any moviegoers planning on venturing to the theaters should stay tuned for an after credits scene that foreshadows the epic battle set to be released in 2020, a year after “Godzilla: King of Monsters” is scheduled to be released.

The thing about franchises as monstrous and money guzzling as Godzilla and King Kong is that as long as the monster graphics are elaborate and the sound effects are epic, people will buy tickets regardless of what the storyline conveys.  So hopefully with the dream team of writers assembled for this particular film, fans can expect an amped up battle of the rather cheesy one in the 1961 original.

The creative team assigned to the film is compiled of seven acclaimed movie writers lead by Terry Rossio accredited for many of the films in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. She is joined by Lindsey Bear (The Kingkiller Chronicles), Cat Vasko (Queen of Air), J. Michael Straczynski (Sense8), Patrick McKay, J.D Payne (Star Trek 4) and T.S Nowlin (Maze Runner).

Long time King Kong fans should not hesitate to check out the newest addition of the franchise,  but even those unfamiliar with the previous movies will still be encaptured within the film that commandeers all the senses and thrusts you into the mysteries and dangers lurking within the jungle of “Skull Island.”

 

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