THOR: RAGNAROK review

Boy, this movie sure has hype surrounding it. “Best reviewed Marvel film of all time.” That’s saying quite a bit as there’s a ton of well-received Marvel films and Thor hasn’t exactly been everyone’s darling as far as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is concerned.

The Thor movies are funny enough among my favorites. Why? Well, Chris Hemsworth always seems to knock it out of the park for me. He’s got a crap load of charm and charisma. Plus, the dude’s really funny. And that was always the bread and butter of these solo films: the humor. I still laugh hysterically when Thor gets hit by Natalie Portman’s car in the first film. Granted, THE DARK WORLD (2013) had its hits (the final battle with Thor and Malekith teleporting everywhere and Mjolnir just can’t get to Thor, and just Loki) and its misses (Stellan Skarsgård. Just… Stellan Skarsgård…), but I still really enjoy these films. They’re probably not the best of the best in terms of Marvel films, but I like ’em anyway.

The latest installment looks like Thor got himself into a fight with Hela, the Goddess of Death, resulting in Mjolnir getting destroyed, and she being hellbent on conquering Asgard. Thor’s without his powers now and taken to a gladiatorial planet where he meets up with Hulk and later on, Loki, eventually teaming up to try and bring down Hela. Standard enough story, but the cast is great, so I’m sure it’ll be entertaining as hell.

Speaking of which, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Chris Hemsworth (GHOSTBUSTERS [2016], RUSH [2013], STAR TREK [2009], and upcoming films 12 STRONG [2018] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Cate Blanchett (SONG TO SONG [2017], I’M NOT THERE. [2007], THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY [1999], and upcoming films OCEAN’S EIGHT [2018] and THE JUNGLE BOOK [2018]), Mark Ruffalo (NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016], ZODIAC [2007], WINDTALKERS [2002], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR), Jeff Goldblum (INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE [2016], MAN OF THE YEAR [2006], THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK [1997], and upcoming films ISLE OF DOGS [2018] and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM [2018]), and Tessa Thompson (CREED [2015], SELMA [2014], WHEN A STRANGER CALLS [2006], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). In support, we have Tom Hiddleston (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], MUPPETS MOST WANTED [2014], THOR [2011], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR), Idris Elba (THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US [2017], PROMETHEUS [2012], 28 WEEKS LATER [2007], and upcoming film MOLLY’S GAME [2018] and TV show continuation THE DARK TOWER [2018]), Karl Urban (PETE’S DRAGON [2016], PATHFINDER [2007], and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS [1996 – 2001]), Anthony Hopkins (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT [2017], BEOWULF [2007], and AMISTAD [1997]), and Clancy Brown (STRONGER [2017], PATHFINDER, STARSHIP TROOPERS [1997], and the upcoming SPONGBOB SQUAREPANTS 3 [2019]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Taika Waititi, known for HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (2016). Penning the screenplay, we have a red flag total of three writers: Eric Pearson (3 episodes of TV show AGENT CARTER [2015 – 2016]), Craig Kyle (animation writer for PLANET HULK [2010], DOCTOR STRANGE [2007], and 6 episodes of X-MEN: EVOLUTION [2000 – 2003]), and Christopher Yost (MAX STEEL [2016], THOR: THE DARK WORLD [2013], and the upcoming SILVER & BLACK [2019]). Composing the score is Mark Mothersbaugh, known for LEGO NINJAGO (2017), MAMA’S BOY (2007), video game CRASH BANDICOOT 2: CORTEX STRIKES BACK (1997), and the upcoming HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is Javier Aguirresarobe, known for THE PROMISE (2017), GOYA’S GHOSTS (2006), and THE OTHERS (2001).

I can safely say that I’m looking forward to it. Perhaps not hyped on ecstasy and twenty shots of espresso, but I’m pretty damn excited all the same. Gotta love anything Thor and Hulk, right?

This is my honest opinion of: THOR: RAGNAROK

(SUMMARY)

After saving the world from Ultron, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been on a quest across the cosmos looking for more infinity stones, but not having any luck. Shifting his focus to deal with a set of dreams he’s been having involving the complete destruction of Asgard, revealed to him by the fire demon Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown) that it’s Ragnarok, which can only happen if King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) dies. Having stopped Ragnarok by taking Surtur’s crown, Thor is shown that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) never perished in the Dark World and has been posing as their father, enjoying his fake ruling. Searching for the father Loki hid away, they find him in his final moments, revealing that the two have an older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), Odin’s firstborn, who was imprisoned for having a blood-lust beyond even his own control and so long as Odin lived, she would remain where she was. However, Odin dies and Hela immediately arrives, destroys Mjolnir, and as the brothers try to escape back to Asgard via the Bifröst, Hela tails them and throws them out of the portal. While Hela arrives to claim the throne as her own, Thor is stranded on an unknown planet, run by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), and is taken to an arena to fight for his freedom so he can return to Asgard and fight Hela once more.

(REVIEW)

Dear, Hollywood. Stop making comedies. Your desperate attempts to make cursing and sex funny has failed. Marvel’s got this. Go away and never come back.

OH MY GOD!!! Bar none, this is the funniest movie of the year. I haven’t laughed this hard, this consistently, in a long ass time. Er… well, since maybe the last Marvel movie. Anyway, there is a lot to go through, so let’s get through it.

While Thor has always been a more comedic focused set of movies in the past, it’s clear to me now that they’ve probably taken themselves a little too seriously. What I mean is that despite the humor, and a mixed bag of good and bad as they’ve been, there was still an air of seriousness that probably didn’t mix that well. That’s not to say that the comedy didn’t work, nor am I saying that the drama didn’t work, what I’m saying is that perhaps the tones needed some working. It took some time, but that seems to be the case and it works beautifully. Thor’s just found out that Loki isn’t dead, and what’s worse, has been masquerading as their father to enjoy the perks of being a king, while hiding their real father on Earth. Though this does beg the question… was Odin really just sitting on his ass the entire time letting Loki vainly rule Asgard? That’s… not really explained very well if I recall. Also, really? Thor hasn’t been to Asgard in two years? Isn’t the Bifröst supposed to be his primary source of interstellar travel? The opening makes it clear that he’s been all around the universe. One would think that he’d visit Asgard once in awhile just to sleep in his own bed and eat a proper meal before shoving off. Yeah, now that I’m writing about this, the beginning of the film doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially when you work in that he tries to use the Bifröst to escape the demon dragon pretty liberally. Side note, demon dragons need to be more of a thing. Anyway, the rest of the movie is Thor just trying to get home, but constantly put in situations that he can’t simply walk away from. He’s frustrated, angry, generally being a “hot-headed fool,” as he admits later on. Hulk doesn’t want to help him, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) doesn’t want to help him, Loki’s enjoying his position at the Grandmaster’s side a little too much, so he’s obviously not going to help, so you feel Thor’s need to get home despite how horrible the odds are against him. And is Thor secretly in love with his own hair? Because when Stan Lee is about to cut it, I would swear you’re about to see the God of Thunder about to weep.

Hulk. What the hell can you possibly say? Quite a bit, so let’s start gushing! He’s been a fan favorite ever since his reintroduction in THE AVENGERS (2012), and it’s not hard to see why. Smashing everything, including punching Thor. His fight with Iron Man in AGE OF ULTRON (2015), a classic to be sure. And now he’s gotten even better. If I remember his previous appearances, he’s never said much outside of, “Puny god.” Hell, he technically hasn’t even said, “Hulk smash!” since THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008). Everyone else says it for him. But now he’s given actual dialog. Short, blunt sentences more akin to a child’s speech, but it works out. Because of this, he’s got an actual character. Yeah, how about that? Hulk has always been more or less portrayed like a sad monster with the hots for Betty Ross, and in the Avengers films, he’s just the awesome smashing monster. Finally, he’s got his moment in the sun and they do a surprising amount with the idea. While most everyone under the Grandmaster’s heel is a warrior who exists to fight and die for his and the planet’s entertainment, an obvious form of servitude, Hulk rather enjoys himself. He lives in an impressive penthouse where he lounges around being appreciated for his fighting prowess until the next combatant arrives to unleash the anger that he always feels. So it comes as no surprise why he doesn’t wants to help Thor reclaim his home from Hela. Though why Thor didn’t try to entice Hulk with the prospect of fighting the GODDESS OF DEATH, an opponent that Thor himself couldn’t defeat, is entirely beyond me. But more than that, and the incredibly funny banter that the two characters exchange, there is still an ironic softness to the big green guy. When he and Thor argue and Thor calls him “the stupid Avenger” in the heat of the moment, Hulk actually pauses. You see his feeling are legitimately hurt and Thor knows it, immediately prompting an apology a kind of sweet connection they share knowing that they’re, “just a couple of hotheaded fools.” You really feel for the guy and love him all the same. This is how you do “Hulk with feelings” Hollywood. The emo brooding Hulk from his two solo outings is a little too soap opera.

Now for Blanchett. Holy shit, who the hell knew that an actress as freakin’ classy as her, who brought such elegance to Lord of the Rings, complexity in CAROL (2015), could play such a wonderful comic book villain? And isn’t that a rare thing to say these days? Hela is indeed my favorite villain since Loki. Although you could easily convince anyone nowadays that Loki is just an anti-hero, rather than a full-blown villain, but we’ll get to Loki in a minute. I love Hela. While her… well, I’m not sure what to call her look when she’s not all “metal spiky hair”… urban? We’ll call it her urban look. Her urban look is a little too similar in design to Enchantress’ design from SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), which is already too similar to the Grudge girl and Samara from the Ring franchise, which was initially a bit of a blow to my liking of the character. But give Blanchett credit, she made the look… well, look good. And more than that, Hela’s a BEAST. Aside from tossing Thor and Loki out of the Bifröst portal, which we’ve never seen happen in previous movies, one of the first thing she does is murder the entire Asgardian army solo, or at least the royal palace guards. But more than that, she’s kinda funny. A hell of a lot funnier than they tried to make Ultron. She’s got this great sense of sick humor. Like when she appoints Skurge (Karl Urban) as her personal executioner, she goes on this tangent about how the Executioner didn’t just execute people, but they were enforcers of the ruler’s will. Essentially their champion. But… they primarily executed people. I loved it. Blanchett should do more comedy related work.

***SPOILERS***

***

***

The very first thing she does is murder the Warriors Three, which I am very conflicted about. On the one hand, I get what this is supposed to represent. Hela’s threat to the main characters. And in an action movie where you need the villain to be a threat, they have to do something big to back that up, and that’s a big move. The problem is the Warriors Three had small appearances in the Thor movies. Their characters weren’t very fleshed out. They were enjoyable as “good guy henchmen,” but there really wasn’t much to the characters. In THE DARK WORLD, Sif was the closest who got character by being teased as a romantic interest for Thor instead of Jane Foster, but again, they barely get fleshed out as characters… and that’s kind of lame to reduce Sif as “the girlfriend.” So Hela killing them off does get the job done in showcasing the threat she really is, their deaths aren’t very impactful since we know so little about them. And because they’re killed so unceremoniously quick, we never will. So here’s to seeing Lady Sif again in an upcoming sequel.

***

***

***END SPOILERS***

This is also probably a good time to mention something that will likely break the hearts of a few fans out there. It’s not a negative toward the film, per se, but… at the same time, it kind of is. Lady Sif, played memorably by the lovely and kick-ass Jaimie Alexander, is not in this movie. Hell, she’s not even referenced. What the hell gives?! Well, in reality, it’s because of timing. Alexander was offered a chance to return, but currently, she’s starring in the hit TV show BLINDSPOT (2015 – ongoing), and the timing was really bad. Her show was about to start shooting its new season and she wasn’t able to make an appearance, or something along those lines. Why she wasn’t referenced in this film, who knows? It’s pretty classless if you ask me. Sif was a pretty popular character from the previous two films, being the only bad-ass woman surrounded by burly men. But here’s hoping that she makes a return in a future film.

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/thor-ragnarok-jaimie-alexander-explains-lady-sif-mia-224123524.html

But to make up for the lack of Sif, they did something rather amazing. They included cameos. But not just any cameos. Luke Hemsworth, the eldest Hemsworth boy, followed by Chris and Liam, the youngest. And not just Luke Hemsworth, but Sam Neill. And not just Luke Hemsworth and Sam Neill, but mother @#$%ing Matt Damon. Yes, each of them has a cameo in this movie. But wait! There’s more! Their cameos are all in one scene! But wait! There’s even more! Their scene is this: Thor has returned to Asgard after two years and happens on the Odin-disguised Loki watching a small stage play of his death scene in THE DARK WORLD. And who are the actors in this play? Luke Hemsworth plays Thor, Matt Damon plays Loki, and Sam Neill plays Odin. Yes. Yes, yes, yes, a million yeses! This is about as hammy and insanely hilarious as it sounds.

Speaking of Loki, let’s talk about Loki! Hiddleston is his usual brilliant and conniving self. His opening sequences are great. When Thor and Loki head to Earth to locate Odin, who wasn’t where Loki originally hid him, are both picked up by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Thing is, while Thor is treated like a welcomed guest, Loki is forced into… well, I’m not sure what it was called, but it’s some place where he was just falling. FOR THIRTY MINUTES!!! See the movie, you’ll get it. It’s hilarious. Seriously, Loki versus Doctor Strange should have been one of the most epic fights in cinematic history, and instead it became one of the most epic punchlines in the movie. In retrospect, Loki’s primary purpose is to be the punchline to every joke that he’s apart of. When he sees Hulk appear on the arena, his first reaction is, “I need to get off this planet.” Not simply, “I need to leave this building,” or, “I need to leave this city,” no, he knows his ass is going to get tossed around like a cheap rag doll if he doesn’t get off the planet. But much to his hilarious tension and unease, the Grandmaster won’t let him simply go. Ugh, I want to talk about the jokes more, but I don’t want to give away everything. Just… keep an eye out for the joke, “Get help.” It’s been two days since I’ve seen this movie and I still can’t stop laughing about it.

And here’s a surprise stick-out: Thompson. Out of this cast of heavy-weight actors full of charm and comedy, who would have guessed that Thompson would not just simply hold her own, but be among them as one of the more impactful characters? No joke, she’s really funny and Valkyrie has a really good backstory to her. She was once one of the valkyrie, a legendary group of all-female warriors sworn to protect the throne of Asgard. This is coming from Thor, by the way. Yeah, the God of Thunder is talking about “legendary” warriors. Really think about that. We know Thor was born and was a kid. Childhood and everything. But he’s pretty ageless and has probably outlived some of the longest running Earth civilizations. For a GOD to be talking about heroes of a bygone era with such wide-eyed admiration should really give you a scope of just how incredible the valkyries were. But Valkyrie here has certainly fallen from grace. Awe hell, having written that out, her intro scene is pretty symbollic of that, as she appears drunk and falls into a pile of garbage. Jesus, that’s a hell of a lot more heartbreaking thinking back on it than it is when it happens. In any case, she is a drunk and she’s got a boat load of sass to her, but she knows exactly what she wants and a lot of that involves being left alone and getting drunk to forget her past. About the only thing that I didn’t like about her is that she develops a close bond with Hulk. Not that it’s a bad thing in of itself, but it’s simply because the relationship is heavily implied, but they rarely interact with each other outside of maybe one scene, and it’s not for very long. We know they’re training partners and they like each other. Maybe that’s all most audiences would need, and it’s quite possible that the movie would only be made longer if they focused on this relationship and diverge too much from Thor’s story, so I can see this as being just a “me” complaint, rather than an actual complaint of the movie. Still, for as much excitement the internet has been getting about what their relationship means in the comics, you’d think the relationship on screen would be fleshed out a little bit more, especially if she’s going to be a mainstay of the franchise for years to come. But I guess that’s what sequels are for. Fingers crossed, y’all!

Jeff Goldblum!! Ahhhhh Jeff Goldblum!! Once you see him as the Grandmaster, life becomes just a little bit better. He’s always got these quips ready to go like a cowboy reaching for his six-shooter. It’s incredible. “Ass-guard?” “The Lord of Thunder.” Oh my god, I think Goldblum is my spirit animal. I honestly don’t know what to say about him other than… if it’s true that there’s going to be short films in the same vein as the short films about Thor during the events of CIVIL WAR (2016), and he’s also going to be rooming with Darryl, I think life can be considered a blessing.

Urban as Skurge is also highly amusing. In the comics, I’m pretty sure he’s portrayed as this hulking enforcer with zero dialog. Merciless, blood-thirsty, the works. But here, he’s got plenty of dialog and he’s not a brute by nature. Hell, he’s just a janitor who cleans the Bifröst gateway and shows off Earth trinkets to a couple of easily impressed lady Asgardians. You can tell that he isn’t really much of a warrior, but accepts his place at Hela’s side out of survival instincts, not because he cares about her usurping the throne. Hell, half the time, he hesitates doing anything that she tells him to do. Executing an innocent person? That’s not in his character. He just wants to be recognized as more than who he was, not as some kind of monster, which Hela was almost turning him into.

Notice something here? Despite how many characters there are in this movie, everyone’s got just the right amount of screen time. We know exactly who all the important characters are. We know what their motivations are, their goals, their backstories if applicable, their personalities are all distinct, their resolutions are all satisfying in varying ways, and that’s a real testament to how well-written the movie is as a whole. Most movies with an extensive cast like this, SOMEONE gets the short end of the stick. Usually it’s pretty understandable, depending on the story. IT (2017) certainly fell prey to this, as some of the boys weren’t well-developed or memorable, but this movie succeeds for the most part. Quite literally, the closest person who doesn’t get that much screen time is Heimdall (Idris Elba), but even he has a certain air of badassery that it almost doesn’t matter. All he does is protect the innocent Asgard people from Hela’s undead forces with a giant sword and glorious set of dreadlocks. Also, it’s Idris Elba. He’s kind of automatically cool.

Aside from the beginning of the film, which, a lot of stuff really didn’t add up, I don’t think I had any additional major problems. I am in love with this movie, y’all. I have no idea if it’s in my top five favorite MCU films, but it’s one of the best and certainly the best Thor film. It looks great, feels great, guaranteed to entertain. If you’re a fan of the MCU, you’re likely going to see this, so there’s no point in me telling you that I recommend it. If you’ve only been casually watching these movies, like my parents, I think you’ll still get something out of it. There’s enough humor and tremendous acting to keep you engaged. If you haven’t seen a single one of these films, I don’t think it’s for you. It does heavily reference the previous films and you might get lost in what lead up to these events and might be confused on where the direction will go. But even then, I can’t imagine the visuals wouldn’t grasp you. I can’t believe that there isn’t something that you couldn’t take away from. It’s an amazing film and well worth the price of admission. I hope to God that I can see this again in theaters and I can’t wait to own it on Blu-Ray. Ragnarok may threaten Asgard, but the Mighty Thor will live on.

My honest rating for THOR: RAGNAROK: 5/5

thorragnarokposter

Advertisements

Quick Netflix review: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011)

Starring: Owen Wilson (CARS 3 [2017], ZOOLANDER 2 [2016], ANACONDA [1997], and SHANGHAI DAWN, no release date announced), Marion Cotillard (ASSASSIN’S CREED [2016], THE DARK KNIGHT RISES [2012], and INCEPTION [2010]), and Rachel McAdams (DOCTOR STRANGE [2016], MORNING GLORY [2010], THE NOTEBOOK [2004], and the upcoming SHERLOCK HOLMES 3, no release date announced).

In support: Corey Stoll (GOLD [2017], CAFÉ SOCIETY [2016], ANT-MAN [2015], and the upcoming FIRST MAN [2018]), Kathy Bates (BAD SANTA 2 [2016], TITANIC [1997], and TV show AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Michael Sheen (NORMAN [2017], PASSENGERS [2016], UNDERWORLD [2003], and the upcoming BRAD’S STATUS [2017]), Tom Hiddleston (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], I SAW THE LIGHT [2016], THOR [2011], and upcoming Marvel films THOR: RAGNAROK [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), and Léa Seydoux (THE LOBSTER [2016], 007 SPECTRE [2015], and BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR [2013]).

Writer/Director: Woody Allen (CAFÉ SOCIETY, IRRATIONAL MAN [2015], MIGHTY APHRODITE [1995], and the upcoming WONDER WHEEL [2017]). This film does not have a composer. Cinematographer: Darius Khondji (THE LOST CITY OF Z [2017], THE IMMIGRANT [2013], and THE RUINS [2008]).

(SUMMARY)

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is on vacation in Paris, trying to find inspiration to complete the novel he’s writing. Though inspiration is slow, he’s quickly fallen in love with Paris and is even considering to move there. His feelings are not shared by his prickly fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams), and the two butt heads constantly. One night, strolling through the streets of Paris, he ends up lost, but the most bizarre thing happens to him at midnight. He’s picked up by an old fashioned car and somehow finds himself in the 1920’s, meeting all of his historical icons, like Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), and even finds possible romance with the beautiful Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a mistress of Picasso.

(REVIEW)

I was surprised by how much I fell in love with this movie.

On top of being Wilson’s best performance I’ve ever seen in his library, it’s a truly gorgeous film just to look at, making the cinematography just as much the star as the actual characters the story follows. Already I love fantasy films and have a soft spot for rom-coms, and it’s not very often that the two are combined and leave this kind of an impact. While I can’t attest to the accuracy of the film using these historical people in Paris at the exact same time, but I doubt I’m supposed to take all this very literal. It’s a fantasy film after all and more of an appreciation of times long gone and a story that challenges a man to assess his relationship and what he wants for himself. At least, that’s what I got out of it. All I can tell you is that I got sucked into the style, the music, the aesthetics of it all, as well as the phenomenal chemistry between the actors, the comedy, and the romance. It’s a gorgeous film to be sure and I’m sad it took me this long to see it.

My honest rating for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS: 5/5

midnight_in_paris_xlg

KONG: SKULL ISLAND review

Hey! A reboot of King Kong because… that’s not a trend in Hollywood.

Okay, to be fair, it’s not quite that simple. This movie is supposed to be building up to a crossover fight between Kong and Godzilla. Of course, that’s only going to happen if this movie does well. But considering the star power, I’d say the movie has nothing to worry about.

So how do I feel about this movie monster that’s about as old as cinema itself? Well, I gotta say that I’m not as familiar with it as I probably should be. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I saw the original KING KONG (1933) and I see it as an incredible cinematic accomplishment for its time. It may not hold up that much, but any film buff will still look at how creative the film-makers had to get to make the effects they had. It’s obvious and dated, but still great in it’s own right and should be respected. I also saw the Peter Jackson remake KING KONG (2005) and I thoroughly loved it, arguably because I’m bias toward Jackson and love his work no matter what. A bit unnecessarily extended, but I didn’t mind so much. But as for anything inbetween 1933 and 2005, I never kept up with the Kong franchise. I know he has a son, there was another remake before Jackson’s, there KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962), eh, as you can see, my knowledge is pretty limited. But the size and scope has always been a point of fascination and what each new iteration brings makes this a not surprising fan favorite of film-goers everywhere.

Now what do I think of this one? It looks pretty fun and awesome. It’s not going for a full-on remake, and I doubt there’s going to be a running commentary on humanity. It seems to be mostly just focusing on big monsters fighting each other and having humans in the mix. Not entirely dissimilar to GODZILLA (2014) for that matter. I doubt it’s going to be great, but it seems like it’s not trying to be. It’s pure action and chaos and if that’s what you’ve always wanted to see, then I’d say that’s what we’re going to get. Not much to say other than it’ll be a welcomed birthday present.

Well let’s take a look at this star-studded cast. Tom Hiddleston (I SAW THE LIGHT [2016], THE AVENGERS [2012], and THOR [2011], and the upcoming THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]). I mean… damn, I love this guy. He brings such a great charisma to the screen and is great in everything that he does. Who doesn’t love him as Loki? But I’m always interested in him branching out into other roles, so I’m very excited to see him here. Oh, and by the grace of God, Brie Larson (ROOM [2015], 21 JUMP STREET [2012], and TV show UNITED STATES OF TARA, and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and CAPTAIN MARVEL [2019]). How can you not be excited to see her in this? With her unbelievable talent and ability to command the screen without having to try, I personally think she’s one of the best actresses out there and can pull off both comedy and drama with ease. I can’t wait to see her roles in these upcoming action flicks. In support, we have John C. Reilly (THE LOBSTER [2016], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], and WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY [2007], and the upcoming Wreck-It-Ralph sequel due out 2018), Samuel L. Jackson (XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE [2017], THE LEGEND OF TARZAN [2016], and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER [2014], and the upcoming THE INCREDIBLES 2 [2018]), John Goodman (10 CLOVERFIELD LANE [2016], TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION [2014], and PARANORMAN [2012], and the upcoming VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS [2017]), Toby Kebbell (GOLD [2017], A MONSTER CALLS [2016], and FANT4STIC [2015]), and Shea Whingham (STAR TREK BEYOND [2016], and TV shows AGENT CARTER and BOARDWALK EMPIRE).

Now for the crew. Directing is Jordan Vogt-Roberts, known for THE KINGS OF SUMMER (2013) and is slated to direct the video game adaptation METAL GEAR SOLID, due out… who knows when. RED FLAG ALERT!!! Three screenwriters: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly. Gilroy is known for NIGHTCRAWLER (2014), THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012), and REAL STEEL (2011). Borenstein is known for GODZILLA (2014) and TV show MINORITY REPORT, and is slated to write the upcoming GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS (2019) and GODZILLA VS. KING KONG (2020). Finally, Connelly is known for MONSTER TRUCKS (2017), JURASSIC WORLD (2015), and SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012), and is slated to write both the upcoming Jurassic World sequel (2018) and STAR WARS EPISODE IX (2019). Composing the music is Henry Jackman, known for CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016), BIG HERO 6 (2015), and WINNIE THE POOH (2011), and is slated for the upcoming Wreck-It-Ralph sequel (2018) and KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Larry Fong, known for BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016), SUPER 8 (2011), and WATCHMEN (2009), and is slated for the upcoming Predator reboot/sequel THE PREDATOR (2018).

Overall, I’m pretty stoked. I’m not expecting anything tremendous or ground-breaking, but it doesn’t look like it’s trying to be. I say I’m going to like it enough. Big monsters fighting each other. Sounds like the perfect movie for my inner teenager.

This is my honest opinion of: KONG: SKULL ISLAND

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1973. Bill Randa (John Goodman) works for an organization called Monarch, a group bent on discovering the unnatural occurrences around the world. He’s also considered a nut-job by his government superiors who don’t want to finance his latest venture: an expedition to Skull Island, an uncharted island that satellites only recently took a picture of. Against better judgment, the expedition is green lit, along with a military escort, led by battle-hardened Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Bill and his associate Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) hunt down specialists to join them, including ex-SAS James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). When they arrives, they successfully navigate through the unnatural storm that keeps the island hidden, but their troubles only get worse as the military escort is attacked by an enormous ape. The survivors are spread out. Packard with his men, trying to survive the many other unnatural creatures of the island, and James and Mason meet the local natives, along with World War II pilot Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who warns them that the giant ape, Kong, is the island’s protector, and isn’t the true threat they all face.

(REVIEW)

AWESOME!!! Holy shit, this was a bad-ass thrill ride! I was totally right. If you thought you were going to get an action movie with Kong fighting other giant monsters, you’re going to get all that, and it’s glorious. There’s… some annoyances, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is high-octane and very enjoyable.

We’ll get to the negatives in a minute, but first, everything that makes it awesome.

Alright, so to clear up some confusion, Kebbell isn’t Kong. Well, not really. The truth has some details that need following. Kong’s physical presence is played by Terry Notary. Notary is a respected stunt performer and coordinator, movement choreographer and coach, and mocap performer. He’s done some extensive work from X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003), Tim Burton’s PLANET OF THE APES (2001), THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008), The Hobbit films, and will be in the upcoming WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017).

http://ew.com/article/2016/05/11/kong-skull-island-toby-kebbell/

Kebbell, whom has done mocap work before, is actually just there for Kong’s facial expressions. I honestly put down this information more for myself because a ton of the central hype on my end came from the notion that Kebbell would be Kong. In a sense, I wasn’t wrong, but the assumption that he was 100 percent Kong was 100 percent wrong. Hey! That kinda rhymed. Either way, Notary and Kebbell do a great job bringing Kong to life, arguably creating the most bad-ass Kong ever put to screen. Er… at least as far as I’ve seen.

Still, it’s gotta put Kebbell through some kind of existential crisis when he’s physically on screen… looking up at a fictional giant ape partially played by him… it tickles me to think about that sort of thing.

Every action scene is intense and visceral, really cool call-backs to the original film. Like, you’ll have camera shots looking down both openings to the helicopter the hapless soldiers are in and from the opposite opening, you’ll see Kong looking through it, roaring. It’s not unlike being on the Universal Studios tour ride in Universal Studios theme par in California. Just with a, you know, Vietnam War feel to it. Kong’s grabbing helicopters, breaking them in half, throwing them at each other, so it never gets old. Thankfully, Kong’s not the only threat our heroes face on the island. Four story tall spiders, a giant octopus, vicious limp-dismembering birds, and the Skullcrawlers, of course. But no dinosaurs? I don’t know about that, filmmakers. I like seeing my dinosaurs.

The acting is also really good, as you’d expect from everyone on screen to deliver, the cinematography is gorgeous and well-shot, giving a great sense of size, urgency, and danger, the humor is great and Reilly steals the show, and the effects are pretty impressive for the most part.

Well, now it’s time to run through the negatives.

I don’t really know why Packard goes this insane. I mean, I think I know what they’re trying to get across. He’s fanatically loyal and caring toward his men, while also making him sort of the Captain Ahab character, seeking revenge against the larger than life monster, but… why? We don’t really see him have a connection with his team, for the most part. He’s sure obsessed with finding Chapman after their initial skirmish with Kong, but beyond that, he’s just your run-of-the-mill, tough-as-nails leader of his military squad. Also… you’d think a military officer of repute would understand the concept of battle, and that soldiers tend to die in hostile environments. I’d have liked Packard better if his primary concern was to get the remainder of his men out alive. Or meet halfway and want the rest of his men to get out alive, but he stays behind to try and kill Kong. I don’t know, there’s ways to work around this character and make him more interesting. Of course… how mad can I be at this movie about that considering we’re blessed with a pissed of Samuel L. Jackson staring down a pissed off King Kong? It’s glorious in its own right. I just wish it made more sense for the character.

Also, I do have to voice some mixed feelings about Kong’s backstory. Yes, Kong has a backstory. I won’t claim to know if Kong has had a backstory before, but… if I remember correctly from both the original and Jackson’s remake, Kong never had a backstory. He was just a monster that existed and stupid humans needed to accept that. Here, he had parents who were killed by the Skullcrawlers and now he’s the last of his kind. So, mixed feelings implies there’s something I like about it, and something I don’t like about it. What I like is that this gives Kong a special hatred toward the Skullcrawlers and adds a little weight to his mere presence. In the original, you just sort of assume that he’s the only one of his kind. But this has him as the last of his kind, and there’s an implication that he’s still pretty young. Marlow utters a line that goes, “he’s still growing.” So in a way, you empathize with Kong a little more than usual. But therein lying the problem. In both the original and remake, you already do. Both explore the cruelty that he faces when he’s brought to civilization, so you grow to feel bad for him through what happens to him. In this movie, it’s telling you to feel bad for him because his parents were killed. Well that’s not an overdone backstory in action movies. At this point, the movie might as well have put Kong in a bat-cowl and cape. Batkong? Copyright! In any case, that could debatably be subjective and not bother anybody. What I think is a legit problem is that it’s pointless to the monster. I mean, if you took out his backstory, what do you really take away from him? Would you ever look at the character and think to yourself that he was truly affected by the death of his parents? Do those details matter? Because I really don’t think so.

And speaking of the monsters, aren’t the Skullcrawlers a bit recycled from the monsters Godzilla fought in the last movie? I mean, they’re big and they scuttle on two arms. Seriously, anyone else feel the same way? Doesn’t it kind of suck out the threat level if they feel like the same enemies that were fought against in the previous film? I don’t know, I didn’t like them. Not very imaginative to me. I would have preferred to see Kong fight more recognizable monsters, like giant spiders, I still miss those T-Rexes, and pretty much anything else other than… arm-scuttling beak monsters.

***SPOILERS***

***

***

I’m also not a particular fan of characters being unceremoniously killed off. Extras die all the time on screen, sure, but I’m talking the ones with names, developed personalities, backstories, the works. Like, we’re clearly supposed to like Chapman. He’s a caring and concerned individual toward his commanding officer and he writes to his son and his team teases him about it. He’s the lone survivor in his helicopter and he watches Kong fight and eat an octopus. Literally, he shares an entire scene with Kong. Likely for that tongue-in-cheek humor, Kebbell having a slight hand in the mocap of Kong’s facial features. But he’s got some serious screen time. But he dies. You’d think a character who is that nice of a guy would carry some emotional weight. Also, he’s a significantly more interesting character than, say, Reg Slivko (Thomas Mann), who plays that clichéd young guy who panics a lot, isn’t confident in any of his teammates to keep him alive, even though they do for the majority of the movie, it’s annoying. I liked Chapman, I didn’t like Slivko, but the writers clearly disagreed with this notion.

And there was no reason for Cole (Shea Whingham) to die. Don’t get me wrong, his character is kind of funny. He’s that quiet, but respected, and ball-busting sort of character whom has no real development, but he’s so awesome in how he doesn’t give a shit and how short he can be with characters. But you do see a sense of loyalty in him and the deaths of his comrades clearly affect him in his own way. But again, he’s killed off because… the script demanded it. Believe it or not, screenwriters, you can have a bunch of characters survive a story. It may not be as fun, granted, but let’s have better reasons to kill off cool characters other than, “It’s been two minutes, someone should die.”

***

***

***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I’d say if all you wanted was to see big monsters beat the crap out of each other, that’s exactly what you’re going to get, in the best way possible. But if you were looking for a true update to the Kong monster that will stand the test of time like it’s 1933 original… eh, shelve those expectations. This is an action movie, through and through. Don’t expect any poetic “It wasn’t the planes. It was beauty that killed the beast” stuff. So if that’s what you’re looking for, then I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested. Oh, and stick around for post-credits scene. It’s pretty awesome.

My honest rating for KONG: SKULL ISLAND: 4/5

kong_skull_island_ver10_xlg