Reviewed by: Casey Scharven
leviathan in the Bible
Are dinosaurs mentioned in the BIBLE? Answer
WHY did God create dinosaurs? Answer
NOAH’S ARK—Did Noah take dinosaurs on the Ark? Answer
|Featuring:|| Tom Hiddleston … Captain James Conrad, a disillusioned former British SAS Captain
Samuel L. Jackson … Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard, leader of the Sky Devils helicopter squadron
John Goodman … William “Bill” Randa, a senior official in the government organization Monarch
John C. Reilly … Hank Marlow, a World War II Lieutenant
Corey Hawkins … Houston Brooks, a young geologist and graduate of Yale University
Brie Larson … Mason Weaver, a war photojournalist and peace activist
Tian Jing … San, a young biologist working for Monarch
Toby Kebbell … Maj. Jack Chapman, right hand man to Packard
Thomas Mann … Blake Simpson, a young hipster and warrant officer of the Sky Devils
Shea Whigham … Earl Cole, a seasoned Captain of the Sky Devils
Jason Mitchell … Glenn Mills, a young loyal warrant officer and helicopter pilot of the Sky Devils
Terry Notary … Kong (via motion capture)
John Ortiz … Victor Nieves, a senior Landsat official
|Director:||Jordan Vogt-Roberts—“The Kings of Summer” (2013)|
It’s 1973. The Vietnam War is winding down, the music is memorable, and the Monarch Agency is running out of money and time. Monarch founder Bill Randa (John Goodman) is making a final effort to prove “monsters exist.” Enlisting the help of Captain Conrad (former British SAS) and LTC Packard (commander of a helicopter unit assigned to help Randa), Monarch accompanies a LANDSAT survey team heading to a newly discovered island.
Once on the island, the helicopters deploy explosive devices to allow geologists to “see” what the island is made of. Kong attacks the helos and knocks all of them down, killing half of the team. Two separate survivors, led by Conrad and Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), use survival skills to avoid all sorts of big and bigger monsters, to make it to the extraction point in three days, when the transport ship is to rendezvous with the survey team.
To those of us who grew up with the classic 1933 “King Kong,” we had the 1976 “King Kong” as an updated version, with some liking it and some hating it. Peter Jackson’s long-awaited version arrived in 2005, again with some liking and some hating it. This version is not based on the traditional King Kong as known in the versions I mentioned above. This version is geared to be a prequel to a remake of the 1962 Japanese movie “King Kong vs. Godzilla”.
Because of this, besides the similarity of Kong being discovered on Skull Island, the comparisons stop. The American versions have Kong being captured and sent to New York City, where he eventually falls off a tall building and is killed. In this version, Kong’s story is told with an eye toward setting up the future 2020 Kong vs. Godzilla movie. In the trailers, you’ll see Kong is much bigger than the 1933, 1976, and 2005 versions, and my educated guess would be that he must be larger to be an adversary to Godzilla. In this version, he’s over 100 feet tall and we’re told he’s still growing!
I saw the movie first in IMAX/3D, and then in a regular theater, and I will say that the IMAX/3D version is certainly better, if you can handle 3D movies. The sound and images are much more intense in the IMAX/3D version, but that isn’t to say that the regular version is lacking—just a noticeable difference. In addition, it’s easy to notice the shots created for the IMAX/3D version in the regular version. I would recommend IMAX/3D.
The film’s characters are a diverse bunch, but you’ve met them before in the movies. The jaded Senator, war heroes with battle scars, an idealistic photo journalist, and common soldiers who are dedicated to one another are all present. LTC Packard’s change from a war hero not wanting to end his tour, to a Captain Ahab character is not exactly a surprise, but the intensity Samuel L. Jackson brings to the role is excellent. I appreciated that the Mason Weaver character (Brie Larson) is not a damsel in distress, but she holds her own in the movie—although I can’t figure out why a photo journalist would stick to black and white images all the time. In a departure from characters I expected to meet, John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow character, is a World War II pilot who has been marooned on Skull Island since 1944, and he steals nearly every scene he is in.
There are a lot of “Easter Eggs” in the movie; for example, many point toward the future movie universe with Godzilla, and other movie monsters. And there are a lot of “Apocalypse Now” comparisons, and I did enjoy some of the shots that are similar, such as the setting sun backlighting a character. The post-credits scene also has some Easter Eggs, if you decide to stay.
The monsters are wonderfully brought to the screen, and the CGI teams earned their paychecks. Kong faces off with several different monsters, and we see others in the movie—but never the ants described by Marlow, which is a shame. The cinematography is great; it’s a feast for the eyes, and the soundtrack has plenty of music folks will remember. As for the musical score, it does well throughout the movie. As for the 1973 hits, I happened to see an interview with the director Jordan Vogt-Roberts; one of the reasons the film is set in 1973 is simply because he wanted that era’s music as the soundtrack! Overall, all facets of the making of the movie are well done.
Some have criticized the movie for not sticking closer to the original story, but I’d disagree. I’d rather not have my preconceived notions of what a King Kong movie should be, getting in the way of letting the movie tell the story. I thought it did what it set out to do—tell a King Kong story, but one that is a bit different from what we’re used to—and set up for the 2020 “King Kong vs. Godzilla” movie.
I do have concerns with the movie from Christian standpoint, and one is language. Although you could say that the language is fairly tame for an intense movie with soldiers and a lot of bloody action, in the end, there is a fairly steady stream of objectionable language—“J*sus,” “Swear to G*d,” “My G*d,” “Oh my G*d,” “d*mn” (4), “h*ll” (9), and a possible “G*d-d*mn” (said during a loud action scene). And there are various vulgar words you, hopefully, wouldn’t say in front of your mother or grandmother. There are two f-words, one is M***er f*****, that is cut off by the action, but it is clear what is intended. Most words are those you’d expect from military personnel in combat situations in the movies.
There is violence heaped on violence; it is a monster movie, after all. People are killed in many imaginative ways by many different creatures, and all of them are in full, glorious view of the movie-goer. Few deaths are in the shadows.
There is little in the area of sex—a single kiss, no sex scenes, or anything like that, which I appreciated. We’ve all seen movies where a sex scene is included “out of nowhere.” I appreciated that Weaver, the photo journalist, is not running around in skimpy attire, but in clothing you’d expect on a jungle expedition. There is a scene early in the movie set in a bar/brothel. You see drug use, and in the background are people you know are prostitutes, showing some cleavage, and possibly a bra, but generally the clothing is not overly revealing. There are later scenes with shirtless males—soldiers and natives.
As Christians, we understand that the world is against God. This movie has no mention of God (besides his name used in profanity), and assumes Evolution as the foundation for monsters and later human development. So, although I appreciated there was no thread in the movie that was overtly “anti-God”—Christians will understand the lack of God is essentially the same thing. God is not in control, but Nature is. There are several occasions where Kong is referred to as the “God” of the island, and is the focus of pagan worship by the islanders. Kong is referred to as a King, and even a good King. As part of the introduction of the islanders, they are described as “past crime” and “past personal property,” as if they are more advanced than the outsiders. These themes all come together to put Nature in charge of Earth, and not God.
The characters’ emotions go through the wringer, but the most noticeable intensity belongs to the character of Packard, who comes to simply hate Kong to the point of wanting to kill him at all costs—without care for the lives of his men. His hate is overwhelming and drives much of the story in its later parts. Some of the characters seem to be “nice” people; they love their mothers, they fight for their comrades, they seek to do good things—but as the movie has nothing to do with God, neither do the characters.
In both showings I attended, parents brought children under 5, and this movie is certainly not for anyone that young. Besides the language, the constant and graphic depiction of death (people being eaten, injured) and the “monster on monster” fighting is simply be too intense for anyone younger than a senior teen.
Do I recommend the film? I’m sorry that I cannot. Despite the spectacle of a big-picture presentation of Skull Island and Kong in all of his power, the bad language is enough for me to say “no.” I know there are many folks who will ask “how much sin in a movie is too much” and that is a fair question. I particularly draw the line at the blaspheming of God’s name and sex scenes, and there are others who will draw the line in different places. We need to be led by the Holy Spirit to understand if our participation in the movie experience—by paying and watching the movie—glorifies God. This movie, in my opinion, crosses the line. As much as I wanted to revisit a movie genre that I enjoyed as a kid, I have to recommend a pass on “Kong: Skull Island.”
Violence: Very Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Minor to Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…a rousing and smartly crafted primordial-beastie spectacular… In its jungle-stranded B-movie way, “Kong: Skull Island” may come closer in spirit to the wide-eyed amazement of the original than either of those remakes. …
—Owen Gleiberman, Variety
…Don't let the looks fool you—“Kong: Skull Island” falls short of previous King Kong films…
—Bob Brown, World Magazine
…“Skull Island” deploys action-movie feints and horror-film frights capably amid its clichés and deaths. Every so often it also pauses and allows Kong and and his captive to move you. …
—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
…If [John C.] Reilly’s presence gives “Kong: Skull Island” its gonzo edge, it’s the title character who gives it soul, morphing from a monster into a symbol of the colossal folly of military belligerence. …
—Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
…King Kong lives! But only just. This is an uneven adventure that’s saved by the spectacle of its towering title character and the various beasts with whom he shares his island home. …
—Jonathan Pile,·Empire [uk]
…Audiences will turn out to see the old chest-beater once again as long as Kong is big enough and loud enough, even if there’s nothing beneath the surface of the story. …
—Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
…stylish and surprisingly brutal throughout… perhaps the most satisfying thing about the film is what comes after, when you stop to realize how darkly comic and sickly fun the film was after you’re done reeling from all the impaling and dismemberment. …
—Dominick Suzanne-Mayer, Consequence of Sound