Our first look at Kong: Skull Island (trailer below) brings us another iteration of the King of the Apes himself. Thus far, King Kong has been shown in multiple films, each telling roughly the same story of a beast falling in love with a woman. Kong has also been about the same height in every iteration on film. This time however, the studio plans on telling a much LARGER story (pardon the pun) because this Kong will be at least 100 ft. tall. He will be the biggest Kong yet and will have to be ready to face off again the King of the Monsters, Godzilla, in King Kong Vs Godzilla.
Though Jordan Vogt-Roberts' film isn’t due until 2020, the stakes are especially high due to the massive scope director Gareth Edwards gave us in his 2014 Godzilla. The film was a financial success, but that success didn’t come without criticism. Edwards’ Godzilla left a lot on the table. For someone who found his monster movie lacking, here's what I think Kong: Skull Island needs to improve upon Edwards’ film and ensure when these two titans meet it makes for a great film.
1. Get On With It!
If the opening of the trailer is any indication, it looks like the film will mostly begin with the lead characters headed straight for Skull Island. The faster they take us to the island, the better. Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong takes a long while to get to the island. The character development is more in depth, but most of the opening could have been cut giving the characters more time on Skull island.
Similarly, in Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla, the opening act was extremely slow. Much was revealed about Joe (Bryan Cranston) and the backstory around his wife and the nuclear power plant incident, but there was no such set up for the titled monster. Sure, the opening credits lend themselves to the original 1950 Godzilla film, but the film takes way too long to get going on the whole. The characters are set up properly, but Godzilla isn't, and let's be honest, he's the star. Hopefully, Kong: Skull Island will look to correct this flaw, jumping straight to the action and keeping the focus on Kong himself.
2. Kong’s Family History
“This planet doesn’t belong to us. Ancient species owned this earth long before mankind. I’ve spent thirty years trying to prove the truth. Monsters exist.”
According to John Goodman’s character, Randa, quoted above, Kong has been around for many years. The trailer features old gorilla remains that have since deteriorated into nothing but bones. The crew of explorers also find a native tribe protecting themselves from any invaders.
If done well, we can expect to learn more about the history of the title character in the movie. Hopefully with insight into why Kong is as big as he is and how he’s hidden himself from the public for so much time.
3. More Creatures
Though the MUTO’s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) in Godzilla put up a good fight, unfortunately that’s all we got to see Godzilla fight. Peter Jackson’s film does a phenomenal job of giving us a variety of monsters including many different types of dinosaurs, giant insects, and even a giant fish-like creature that was unfortunately cut out of the theatrical version. In Skull Island, Kong will be fighting many different kinds of creatures, including giant insects and — very exciting — dinosaurs. With other creatures and threats, Kong: Skull Island would certainly have the advantage over Edwards' film's smaller scope.
4. Visual Aesthetic
This may not sound like a big deal, but lighting and visuals in film are VERY important. Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla is not only dark in tone, but the movie itself is literally too dark. It's hard to see the creatures at times, including Godzilla. Most every action scene of the film takes place at night, making it harder to be awed visually.
Granted, a heavily CGI'd character may look better on the big screen if lit poorly, leaving a bit more to the imagination and giving it a more realistic feel. But seriously folks this is 2016. Even for all it's flaws, Michael Bay’s Transformers look really good on the big screen. The average movie-goer pretty readily accepts the computer generated version of an unreal thing these days, and updated technology allows for most of it to look pretty darn good.
I know the tone of Godzilla was dreary so it only made sense to have majority of the film take place at night, but when viewers can barely see the battles that are taking place, that's a development problem. The Kong: Skull Island trailer shows the team traversing the island during the day. Even the shots that tease Kong appear to take place during the day. Surely there will be night scenes, but already it looks like Vogt-Roberts has made an action film featuring creatures we might actually be able to make out.
5. Show Us The King!
Perhaps the biggest criticism I have for the 2014 Godzilla, was that we barely even see him. I mentioned the lighting being a problem, but Godzilla also literally got very little screen time. He is teased throughout the entire film and, sadly, when he finally appears, the film immediately cuts to the action on a small TV screen.
As an audience member, I felt cheated when I saw it. I expected to see an epic battle unfold, but the focus remained on characters I didn't care to see. I will concede that when we do see Godzilla in his final battle, the camera mostly stayed on the fight between him and the MUTO’s. If only the rest of the film had had the same focus.
All said and done, Godzilla receives 8 whole minutes of screen time in Edwards' film. Yes, you read that right, 8 minutes. The video below compiles them all to show just how little time that is.
In a movie titled Godzilla, one would hope to see the monster quite often. The film clocks in around 2 hrs and 10 minutes. Even the MUTO have more screen time at about 13 minutes! Including scenes where Godzilla fights them. When a film gives the enemies more screen time than the title monster, that's a problem. One that will hopefully be fixed in the Godzilla sequel.
To improve on Edwards' film, Kong: Skull Island MUST show Kong. Of course, they'll tease him at fist, but once fully shown, we want to see what he's capable of. Even getting a glimpse of him in the trailer feels like a good sign at Kong's probable screen time.
This is a brand new Kong and I can't wait to see what he’s got. As Godzilla's soon-to-be opponent, audiences want to know if Kong can hold his own.
What do you want to see in Kong: Skull Island?