Kong: Skull Island (3D Blu-ray) (2017)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Creating a King
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-On Location: Vietnam
Featurette-Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler
Featurette-Through the Lens: Brie Larson's Photography
Featurette-Monarch Files 2.0 (Companion Archive)
Audio Commentary-with director Jordan Vogt-Roberts
|Year Of Production||2017|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Jordan Vogt-Roberts|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Samuel L. Jackson
John C. Reilly
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
French DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1
Hindi Dolby Digital 5.1
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Post-credits scene|
†††† A quasi-remake of King Kong, 2017ís Kong: Skull Island is a mightily entertaining B-movie in every sense of the word, and it represents the second instalment in Legendary Entertainmentís interconnected ďMonsterVerseĒ franchise, following 2014ís Godzilla. Whereas Peter Jacksonís 2005 reimagining of King Kong augmented its spectacle with emotion and themes, Skull Island is all about rampaging monsters, but itís nice to see a blockbuster of this ilk made by a team of filmmakers who care about their craft and know how to create thrilling action sequences. There are no pretensions here - this is just a fun, well-made monster yarn which miraculously doesnít require a lobotomy prior to viewing.
†††† In the waning days of the Vietnam War, senior Monarch employee Bill Randa (John Goodman) convinces the United States government to sanction an expedition to an uncharted land mass in the South Pacific known as Skull Island. For the trip, Randa and his scientist partner (Corey Hawkins) recruit British Special Air Services Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to join the team, which is escorted and guarded by a military envoy out of Vietnam headed by Lt. Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Taking to the skies of Skull Island to bomb the landscape in order to draw out any wildlife, Packardís team unwittingly disturbs the natural order of things, which enrages monster ape Kong. Attacking the squad of choppers, Kong makes a mess out of the soldiers, separating the survivors into groups scattered all over the island, who have just two days to make their way to the rendezvous point. But the humans quickly find that the island is populated by other creatures even more menacing than Kong, especially the carnivorous ďSkullcrawlersĒ who consume everything in sight. Amid the chaos, they encounter Marlow (John C. Reilly), an American soldier stranded during WWII who hopes that he finally has a chance to get home.
†††† With a script credited to three writers (from a story by John Gatins), Kong: Skull Island more or less plays out like the first two acts of any other King Kong movie, minus the capture of the titular ape and New York finale. Itís a welcomely refreshing way to reintroduce the gigantic simian yet again, finding director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) plotting out his own fresh vision which takes inspiration from Apocalypse Now and Jurassic Park, with a fun reference to Cannibal Holocaust to boot. Set-up and exposition is efficient, doing just enough to explain the mission and introduce the characters before reaching the island and giving over to a fast-paced succession of action set-pieces. Subplots do appear, but Packardís yearning for revenge against Kong is perhaps the most prominent - he takes Kongís initial attack personally, becoming very reminiscent of Captain Ahab. As previously stated, there isnít much in the way of emotion throughout Kong: Skull Island - it doesnít even try to dabble in the science-gone-wrong themes of Jurassic Park - but it all comes together well enough nonetheless. The script even serves up a smattering of gallows humour to add some levity to the sometimes unnerving violence.
†††† It would appear that Legendary learned from 2014ís Godzilla, which was criticised by fans due to its lack of action and shortage of Godzilla screen-time. Hence, Vogt-Roberts doesnít waste much time introducing the great ape - Kong is briefly glimpsed in an effective prologue establishing Marlowís residency on the island, but he really joins the fray at the half-hour mark as he viciously takes down Packardís choppers, killing dozens of soldiers. From there, monster throwdowns are prolonged and frequent, spotlighting the titular beast as he battles the islandís perilous wildlife of all shapes and sizes. Whereas Michael Bay repeatedly ruins each Transformers movie with a routine of rapid-fire cutting and shaky-cam, Vogt-Roberts and cinematographer Larry Fong ensure that the carnage is always fun to watch and easy to comprehend, relying on smooth wide shots. Vogt-Roberts endows the combat with fun little quirks, too, adding personality to what could have been just another drab, generic blockbuster in less skilful hands. However, the movie does go a bit too far with a 300-inspired slow motion shot of Conrad slicing prehistoric birds in mid-air which just comes off as hoary, unnecessary and self-indulgent.
†††† Skull Islandís unique version of Kong stands approximately 100ft tall and is more human in his movements, never hunching over on all fours like a primate. As to be expected from a generously-budgeted studio blockbuster, the digital effects consistently impress in their fluidity and detail, and Kong is insanely expressive and nuanced thanks to always-improving motion capture techniques. However, the CGI is knowingly artificial as well, which is more noticeable because the movie was shot digitally, taking away any sense of tangibility. It has to be said that there was a bit more charm to similar monster movies of yesteryear, which were shot on good old-fashioned celluloid and used men in dumpy rubber suits to play monsters on miniature sets. Still, Kong: Skull Island gets more right than wrong, and Fong makes fantastic use of the truly breathtaking locations in Vietnam, Hawaii and Australia. For a monster movie, thereís genuine cinematic artistry throughout, and itís brilliantly accompanied by a soundtrack of classic rock tunes from the Vietnam era - the playlist includes tunes from Creedence Clearwater Revival, David Bowie and Jefferson Airplane (just to name a few), adding further flavour to the material.
†††† As perhaps to be expected, the acting is effective but unremarkable for the most part, though at least nobody disgraces themselves. Hiddleston is a very good actor and he acquits himself well enough, but heís certainly not believable as a badass Special Forces type. Jackson, however, can do this type of hard-nosed military leader routine in his sleep, and heís a real asset, while Larson is simply lovely as the token female character who seems to intrigue Kong. But its Reilly who really steals the show; he actually has a proper character to play, and itís easier to instantly latch onto him compared to the rest of the ensemble. Reilly is his usual goofy self, but thereís a hint of poignancy here too, giving the movie its only real traces of humanity. The rest of the actors do what they can with their underwritten roles, particularly Shea Wingam who makes a good impression as a seasoned soldier, but the movie basically belongs to Kong and John C. Reilly.
†††† Kong: Skull Island is a bit silly and it likely wonít resonant with many viewers on a profound level, but itís slickly-made and it doesnít outright insult anybodyís intelligence, nor does it feel overlong, which confidently places it above other contemporary blockbusters. Quite simply, it delivers the goods, and itís a total blast if youíre in the mood for some well-paced big-screen escapism. Also, be sure to stay tuned for a touching additional sequence during the credits and a Marvel-style post-credits scene which sets up further connections to Godzilla and teases whatís to come in the future of the MonsterVerse.
†††† Television manufacturers have dropped support for 3D with 2017 models, choosing to no longer manufacture 3D TVs due to a reported lack of consumer interest. (3D projectors are still available, mind you.) 3D Blu-rays may eventually become scarce as a result, making it even more welcoming that Roadshow chose to release Kong: Skull Island on 3D Blu-ray. As with most major blockbusters these days, Skull Island was shot in regular old 2D before being converted to 3D in post-production, but you would never guess that this was a conversion whilst watching the disc. Indeed, we've come a long way since the Clash of the Titans remake debacle all the way back in 2010. Roadshow's MVC-encoded 3D presentation of Skull Island retains the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and it has an entire BD-50 to itself to maximise the picture quality. For those of you with a 3D television, this disc is a must-buy.
†††† From the first frame, the insane competency of the conversion is on full display. When young Marlow stops before a cliff in the opening sequence, the landscape appears to stretch out into the television. During the amazing long shot from inside a helicopter being taken down by Kong, you can get a better sense of the height from the ground, and if anything it's more terrifying to see Kong's gigantic face below. Whenever a character looks down the viewfinder of a camera, the on-screen information of said viewfinder is separate to whatever the camera is looking at. Even in smaller dialogue sequences, there's brilliant separation between the characters and the landscapes. The sense of immersion is truly immaculate from start to finish.
†††† Object delineation is magnificent - everything appears to be a separate visual element, and there's never any "pop-up book" effect, as the people and the creatures look properly three-dimensional. The 3D presentation is mostly based on depth, but there are a few notable moments when things appear to pop out of the screen - rifle barrels look to be protruding beyond the television, as do the spears of the natives when they first meet Conrad's squad. And when Kong kills a giant squid in the water, a piece of said squid comes flying out towards the screen, which made me flinch. Such moments may be gimmicky, but it heightens the sense of fun.
†††† Interestingly, there's considerably less source noise here than was visible in the 2D and 4K presentations, which should imply that digital noise reduction was used, but there are no tell-tale signs of DNR as there's always plenty of detail and the image never looks smeary. In fact, the dimness associated with 3D glasses actually seems to bring out more detail, since textures aren't blown out by brightness. I was actually surprised by how consistently detailed the movie looks - it's up there with the best that the format has to offer. Thankfully, this is a very sharp transfer as well, and I didn't detect any encoding anomalies - on my display, there was no ghosting, aliasing, or any other bothersome artefacts.
†††† 3D is undeniably niche at this point, but deary me I cannot deny that Kong: Skull Island is an astonishing watch, even if it is a post-conversion. It really shows the benefits of the format, and proves that 3D can still be amazing if done right. This particular monster yarn was made for 3D, and it's clear from the framing and sturdy cinematography that it wasn't just an afterthought in an attempt to heighten ticket sales.
†††† Many subtitle options are available. I had no problems sampling the English track.
†††† Both the standard Blu-ray and the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray come with a rip-roaring Dolby Atmos track, but for some reason the 3D disc only gets a downgraded DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. Audiophiles with an Atmos system who enjoy watching 3D Blu-rays are destined to cry foul as a result. Indeed, this 5.1 mix is not as dynamic or as full as the Atmos track, as solid as it may be in other respects.
†††† The broad strokes of this mix do impress, of course; it's loud and aggressive, displaying insane subwoofer activity whenever Kong roars or a monster throwdown takes place. There is separation, too, which is particularly notable in the opening off-screen dogfight, while ambience fills the rear channels during scenes on Skull Island, making the jungles feel more alive. There are no issues with dialogue prioritisation, and the track is perfectly clear. However, I did detect a few brief pops in the second half of the movie, and Reilly saying "That's the big one!" appeared to peak. These issues were not present on the Atmos track. But these are only fleeting, and there are no other glitches.
†††† In all likelihood, Roadshow/Warner Bros. felt that an Atmos track just wouldn't fit on the disc. So if the trade-off is the best possible 3D presentation, then I guess I can excuse it. At least the track is lossless. But then again, surely they could have sacrificed one of the many other audio tracks on the disc. All things considered, this is still a good track, but I'm nevertheless detracting some stars for the loss of channels.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
† † Again, all editions worldwide appear virtually identical. At this time, it doesn't appear that any 3D release has upgraded audio, so buy local.
†††† Kong: Skull Island may prove polarizing to an extent, depending on your expectations. It's more entertaining and competent than 2014's Godzilla, but it lacks any sort of emotion. It's a big, fun monster movie, playing out with an infectious B-grade spirit. I had a great time with it.
†††† Armchair "experts" and internet bloggers claim that 3D is dead since television manufacturers have dropped 3D support, so getting Kong in three dimensions is appreciated for those of us who can watch it. The transfer is downright excellent, one of the best 3D presentations I've ever seen, but unfortunately the downgraded audio is a bit disappointing. Still, this set comes highly recommended.
|DVD||LG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|