Kong: Skull Island 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
After the massive letdown that was Peter Jackson’s KING KONG in 2005, I wasn’t sure the great ape could find success on the big screen. It turns out that what the series needed was someone that didn’t take the source material too seriously. And instead of putting all of the attention on terrible characters, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts decided to put the attention on Kong. The result is a fun monster movie that turned out to be a surprisingly good time.
Most monster movies waste a good 30-45 minutes of setting up human characters before revealing the monster; as if it’s some sort of surprise for the audience that paid to see a monster. KONG: SKULL ISLAND opens up with two stranded WWII soldiers fighting before they’re confronted by Kong himself. So right off the bat, we see the giant ape in all his glory. We then flash forward thirty years where we meet Bill (Goodman), a scientist organizing an expedition to Skull Island. To help him on his journey, he gets a military escort led by Packard (Jackson) and his team that has just returned from fighting in Vietnam. Bill also enlists the help of famed explorer Conrad (Hiddleston) and photographer Mason (Larson) to guide and document the expedition respectively.
Part of their plan is to drop explosives around the island so they can “map” the surface, which of course wakes up Kong. So very little time is wasted getting into the action and I can’t stress enough what a good call that was from Vogt-Roberts. We get a brief introduction into each human character, but the main star of the film is King Kong and everyone involved seems to understand that. Right away, we get a nice action scene with Kong and the helicopters that were transporting the crew, inciting anger in Packard and fear in everyone else. As Packard wants to make his way to a downed helicopter to get the bombs, everyone else just wants to get off the island. And all of this was done in a nice style, equal parts original and part homage and throwback to classic movies of the 70’s.
I mentioned the film didn’t take itself too seriously and that’s proven when they come across Hank (John C. Reilly). Hank was one of the pilots stranded on the island and has been there since he first crash landed during WWII. He was hilarious and exactly what the film needed to remind everyone that the film was a monster movie and not some serious drama. He introduces us to big, fish-like monsters that are Kong’s enemies and that sets up some cool monster on monster battles that were a blast.
I had no expectations coming into KONG: SKULL ISLAND, but I was fearful we were going to be in for another overly dramatic interpretation of King Kong. It turns out the filmmakers had different ideas and instead of beating us over the head with drama, we got a great monster on monster action film. I know the human characters were cliché and one dimensional, but they didn’t need to be anything more. What we needed was Kong running through the jungle and fighting big monsters and that’s exactly what was delivered.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: If you keep up with 4K reviews or have viewed a lot of 4K’s yourself, you know that CGI can be tricking in 4K. KONG: SKULL ISLAND might be a good example of this since in one scene it’s absolutely breathtaking and in another, it looks a little shoddy. The final, fiery showdown between Kong and Packard is a good representation of how 4K can make the CGI look. That scene was extremely heavy in CGI and on the 4K, there’s a bit of a halo around Packard as he stands in front of the fire. On the other side, as the helicopters are approaching the Kong in Vogt-Roberts’ APOCALYPSE NOW homage, everything looks stunning. This is also true in some of the closeups with the ape as we can see all of the hair and cuts on Kong’s body. This is a nice transfer, but given the amount of CGI, I’m not sure I’d reach for this to show off the video.
Audio: The Dolby Atoms track is nice, but I found myself enjoying the booming music more than the explosions or Kong-yells. There are some fun moments as Kong is standing or the monsters are running around and your overhead channels kick in.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any new features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
Commentary with Jordan Vogt-Roberts: Vogt-Roberts gives what I would call a by the numbers commentary, taking the audience through the various inspirations and technical aspects of the film. It’s a decent commentary, but I can’t help but feel like he could have used someone in the room with him to play off of and to lighten up the commentary.
Deleted Scenes (3:40): These are too quick to amount to much and were clearly cut for timing reasons.
Creating a King (24:26): Two featurettes here, “Realizing an Icon” and “Summoning a God”, both focused on the giant ape and his history compared to how he was re-imagined for this film.
Featurettes (22:48): Five short featurettes covering a variety of topics, including the fact they filmed a lot of this on location in Vietnam. The highlight is also the shortest one, which looks at all the real photos Brie Larson took on set.