Blu-Ray Review: Kong: Skull Island
Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Street Date: July 18th 2017
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, Dolby Atmos- True HD
Runtime: 118 Minutes
*The following excerpt was taken from my own review for the film posted on We Live Entertainment on March 2nd 2017
I still vividly remember the first time I saw the original King Kong (1933). I was roughly ten years old, and Jurassic Park had just arrived on the big screen. Like most other children at the time, I was enthralled with Spielberg’s dinosaur blockbuster, and immediately began to seek out any and all “giant monster” creature features of a similar vein. I had already been introduced to the Godzilla series, but I began to discover the work of Ray Harryhausen, the Japanese Gamera series, and other films like Hammer’s One Million Years B.C. Upon discovering my newfound interest in the genre, my Father insisted that I give the 1933 version of Kong a fair chance too. Though I will admit that to a 10 year-old fresh off the technical wizardry showcased in Jurassic Park, the stop-motion animation and combined puppetry of the original was, at first, seemed rightfully dated. But then something happened: the heartbreaking story, Fay Wray’s genuine performance, and the emotion-filled wonder behind the giant ape himself drew me in completely.
Fast forward to 2017 and several remakes later, Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts Kong: Skull Island, simply put, is the most unique entry in the long-running series ever to grace the silver screen. It’s also the first must-see blockbuster of 2017. The various remakes and reimagined versions of the classic Kong Tale (“‘twas beauty that killed the beast”) have long grown tiring, and Skull Island delivers the goods to viewers who want an original monster epic while staying true to the legendary ape we all know and love. With incredible action pieces, fleshed out and interesting characters from an all-star ensemble, and perhaps most surprising of all, a wonderful sense of humor, Kong Skull Island is an old-school adventure film that will delight viewers young and old.
In this latest Kong entry, it’s 1973 and American involvement in the Vietnam War has come to an end. For special operation Monarch chief Bill Randa (John Goodman), this presents a latch ditch opportunity for his failing government division to hitch a ride with Colonel Preston Packard’s (Samuel L. Jackson) military outfit to nearby Skull Island in an attempt to make a unique scientific discovery. The Monarch intel claims that there may be an as yet undiscovered ecosystem behind the thick chaotic storm ring that surrounds the island. Along for the ride are rugged animal tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who along with the Military crew, quickly discover that there is much more to this island than any of them ever imagined!
Kong is bigger, badder, and more majestic than ever before. The only difference being that this time around, the focus is less about the ape king himself, and more about the colorful crew’s conflicts, hidden intentions, and eventual camaraderie as they navigate the unknown in this dangerous lost world. Kong soon proves to be less of a threat and more of a savior when our human protagonists meet the underworld-dwelling Kaiju “Skull Crawlers” that have terrorized the island for years. With a time sensitive rescue operation underway, the crew must make their way to the edge of the island before his majesty, or the pursuing skull crawler monsters, bring an end to them all.
Unlike previous Kong films, Skull Island somehow manages to not only get right to the action, but expertly weaves surprisingly solid character development throughout the masterful assault on the senses. It’s also, as I stated above, a sincerely funny film filled with laugh-out-loud moments, especially from the character of Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a former WWII pilot that has been stranded on Skull Island for far too long. Personally, I found the humor to be a welcome change in contrast to the traditionally serious Kong films of yesteryear. It’s a delicate balance for certain, but the filmmakers have managed to achieve it; delivering a solid action-adventure film sprinkled with some B-movie silliness that somehow manages to never veer into camp or parody territory. It will be interesting to see how Legendary and Warner Bros. manage to pair this style with the more dreadfully serious tone of 2014’s Godzilla in the eventual creature feature mash-up.
With that being said, I highly recommend Kong Skull Island for those seeking a cinematic adventure on a grand scale, and be sure to see it in 3D, as the visuals presented are truly a sight to behold.
Kong: Skull Island was finished on a 2K Digital Intermediate, which is the source of this fine looking Blu-Ray presentation from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. For fans that would rather pickup the 4K UHD version, please understand that while the UHD colors will certainly look slightly more vivid on that format, the 4K version remains an up-convert from the 2K master source (i.e. the UHD version doesn’t represent “true 4k”). Nevertheless, this Blu-Ray presentation looks gorgeous and offers up a particularly awe-inspiring show of vibrant colors and absurdly detailed definition. There are moments of stunning clarity that seem near tangible for the viewer, and I have to say I was consistently impressed throughout. Black levels are inky and solid, and this is especially important and impressive in the film’s darker sequences. The sheer masterwork of the special effects team regarding the level of detail to be seen here, even on the most minor level (i.e. strands of Kong’s fur), is especially impressive on this beautiful looking Blu-Ray disc!
The included Dolby Atmos True HD audio track is another highlight of this release, offering up a thoroughly immersive and adventurous home viewing experience with a dynamic multi-channel effort. Dialogue comes through clean and clear, and the dynamic range of action packed explosions and gunfire surround you completely. Even minor background effects are nuanced and stylistic, with some delightful cross-channel panning (i.e. birds chirping or trees in the breeze).
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has given fans of Kong: Skull Island a Blu-Ray release filled with exciting special features that delve deep into the making of the film. Here’s what’s included:
- Director’s Commentary: Jordan Vogt-Roberts offers up some interesting behind-the-scenes stories and tidbits from the making of the film.
- Creating a King: Realizing an Icon: This feature has the cast and crew discussing the unique entry in the Kong series and how they were trying to get away from the “classic” version of the story that has been told time and time again.
- Creating a King: Summoning a God: Some awesome special effects discussion here on the creation of Kong himself, the skull crawlers, and the amazing sets for the film.
- Monarch Files 2.0: Don’t watch this one unless you’ve seen the movie already, as it spoils quite a bit of the film. It’s more of a “fake” documentary on the events that occur in the film from the Monarch Corporation.
- Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler: Tom Hiddleston fans will certainly enjoy spending some fun video diary time with the actor on the set.
- Through the Lens: Brie Larson’s Photography: Another great feature, though short, that discusses Brie Larson’s photography from the set of the film and how she was trained to become a photographer to accurately portray her character.
- On Location: Vietnam: A short segment on the massive production effort that took place in Vietnam.
- Deleted Scenes: Not much to see here, mostly extensions that were better left on the cutting room floor.
This Blu-Ray release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment features a colorful slipcover design with embossed title lettering, an embossed skull, and a debossed imprint around Kong’s eyes that makes for a fun home video edition for kinesthetic folks like me! The back of the case includes a brief plot synopsis, a list of bonus features, and technical specifications. Inside you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc for the film, a DVD version, and an Ultraviolet digital copy code insert. The disc design on the Blu-Ray features some Monarch Corporation type and the design on the DVD is similar to Kong’s bloody handprint as seen on the Cliffside in the film.
Kong: Skull Island, simply put, is the most unique entry in the long-running series to ever grace the silver screen. The film delivers the goods to viewers who want an original monster epic while staying true to the legendary ape we all know and love. With incredible action pieces, fleshed out and interesting characters from an all-star ensemble, and perhaps most surprising of all, a wonderful sense of humor, Kong Skull Island is an old-school adventure film that will delight viewers young and old. The Blu-Ray presentation is gorgeous to behold, with lifelike detail and colors, and the accompanying Dolby Atmos audio track makes for a fully immersive home viewing experience. The special features round out this great package, delving deep into the making of the film and offering viewers a chance to discover some fun behind-the-scenes moments with the cast and crew. I highly recommend Kong Skull Island on Blu-Ray for those seeking a cinematic adventure on a grand scale!