Kong Skull Island Review — The Anime Version of Apocalyse Now

Yes, I know Armored Troopers: VOTOMS exists and Kong Skull Island isn’t animated. But it was influenced by anime and Neon Genesis Evangelion in particular, so I say that subtitle is accurate.

  • Kong Skull Island is the second film in Legendary’ monster cinematic following 2014’s Godzilla reboot, and serves as a reinterpretation of the King Kong story where he doesn’t die in the end and never actually leaves the jungle he comes from. Instead, a bunch of soldiers and explorers come to him, and when they disturb his natural habitat, we quickly learn that the big guy isn’t really into second chances. However, if you’re kind to him, he’ll gladly take down that giant skeleton dinosaur that’s about to chomp your head from behind right now.
  • Now I’ve been very cynical about these sorts of cinematic universes in the past. Man of Steel is the only movie associated with one I consider good, and a large part of that is due to how it didn’t try to create an overarching story, as the later DC films suffered massively when it tried pulling that shit. The main reason for that is due to the fact that each film has to tell a self-contained story whilst setting up for the next major event. And trying to accomplish that in only two hours, plus Disney being a soulless machine in general when it comes to their live-action stuff, has pretty much resulted in what happens every time Bleach tries to get all big-screen on us.

The tentacle porn. It hurts!

  • Thankfully, Kong Skull Island doesn’t have that problem, if only because it throws narrative structure out the window at the very start. The little plot used to justify watching King Kong and these other animals wreck shit is pretty much one giant Vietnam War film homage from the endless jungles to the military strategies used to survive, and I never really saw the characters as any more than the actors that play them (Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, etc.). But with the exception of John C. Reily’s stranded soldier, I’m pretty sure they’re just tools to characterize Kong himself, and in that vein, they’re pretty interesting in their own way. And I found Kong to be pretty cool too in that sort of misunderstood technical pacifist kind of way.
  • Unlike the Marvel, DC, and Star Wars cinematic universes, this new Monsterverse doesn’t have to worry so much about characterization or plot. Its main appeal is to be hilarious modern exploitation camp in the same vein as Guilty Crown or the live-action Speed Racer. Most of what happened in the 2014 Godzilla were just human stereotypes running around while Godzilla fought giant bugs off-screen. Kong Skull Island is like that, except we see more of the big ape than we do the big lizard, and a lot more named characters die to the point that you can make a drinking game out of it.
  • And holy shit are the death scenes and overall action fun to watch. This is the kind of shit I wanted to see from Logan when it was given its “not very deserved” R-rating. In fact, this movie is rated PG-13, and while most of the deaths come from getting eaten or stomped which isn’t too bad as long as you let your imagination take a rest, some of them like when the giant spider shows up is really brutal. This is the kind of hilariously brutal stuff the exploitation genre needs more of if it’s going to survive in present-day, and I’m so glad Legendary seems to get that with two of the most famous monsters in pop culture so far.

Try remembering these characters’ names in the film. I dare you!

  • There’s not really much else to say about the movie considering it’s one of those “shallow on paper, but awesome in execution” type of films, but I will definitely say that even if you didn’t know Kong Skull Island was largely anime-influenced, most anime fans can pretty much recognize that some of the monsters look like a Miyazaki creation if possessed by the dark side. I could practically see all the Japanese seeping into the American stereotypes in this film, right down to Kong himself, who’s an American creation.
  • Wouldn’t go so far as to say all of the anime-isms (as well as other pop culture) was integrated into the movie successfully, but it definitely worked enough to the point that it’s a better “anime” film than most of the actually animated ones we’ve gotten. Now we just need to see if the new Power Rangers movie and the new Ghost in the Shell follow suit, although something tells me that’s not gonna happen.

I. Am. KONG!

  • Kong Skull Island is definitely just as strong as Godzilla was three years ago, but if you’re one of the sad sacks who didn’t like the latter, then I’m sorry to say that the former will not win you over. Also, you obviously don’t like anime.

Minor Quips

  • Also, I’d be fine with that new Alien movie consisting of nothing but two hours of the Xenomorph ripping heads off.
  • The idea of the new Power Rangers movie from what I could tell from the trailers isn’t bad, but I don’t think the two-hour format is enough to realize its Riverdale-like potential.

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