Action Adventure

'Kong: Skull Island' Blu-ray Review: An iconic movie monster reimagined amidst a theater of war

July 24, 2017Ben MK

In the never-ending battle for supremacy between man and beast, it's all but a foregone conclusion that the winner would be the 158-ton gorilla in the room. Still, that hasn't stopped Hollywood from repeatedly revisiting and reimagining the tale of King Kong, this time with The Kings of Summer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts framing the epic conflict against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.

Set in 1973, Kong: Skull Island marks the eighth time the legendary ape has roared his way onto the big screen, the first being 1933's King Kong and the most recent being Peter Jackson's 2005 remake. Alas, a lot has changed in the last twelve years, though. And with moviegoers having grown weary of retreads, Skull Island takes things in a different direction, painting Kong as more of a savior than a tragic character, and setting his story entirely on the titular island, which happens to not only be home to him, but also to a menagerie of other mammoth monsters.

The downside, however, is the script by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connelly, which finds an expedition team led by former SAS Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) getting in way over their heads, when he, anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a slew of potential human casualties (including Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins and Jing Tian) are caught in the middle of a showdown between the island's supersized inhabitants. Needless to say, the bare bones plot is the weakest aspect of the movie.

Otherwise, the makers of Kong: Skull Island have learned well from Godzilla 2014's missteps and taken the fan feedback to heart, especially when it comes to giving their star attraction plenty of screen time. From Kong's grand entrance, a thrilling sequence in which the big ape makes short work of a squadron of military helicopters invading his territory, to the final monster-on-monster battle, moviegoers won't be left wanting by the impact of Kong's presence in the film, proving that — at least when it comes to giant creature features — bigger is always better.

Kong: Skull Island smashes its way onto Blu-ray with a monstrously good 1080p transfer and a blistering Dolby Atmos sound mix, putting viewers right in the thick of the action. From being able to count each of the 19 million hairs covering Kong's 100-foot-tall frame to being surrounded by lush, dense jungle foliage and the sounds of gunfire, exploding bombs and roaring, prehistoric beasts, this is the perfect example of visuals and audio working in unison to deliver a totally immersive home theater experience, a claim that's bolstered by showstopping set-pieces like the characters' first, violent encounter with Kong, as well as a bloody standoff in an ancient boneyard.

Warner's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes an UltraViolet digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Creating a King (24:26) - A two-part featurette covering the film's reimagining of Kong, its 1970s setting and its visual effects, from the character design to the challenges of animating realistic fur, muscles and monster-on-monster battles ("Realizing an Icon" and "Summoning a God").
  • On Location: Vietnam (5:38) - The cast and crew share their experiences of filming in Vietnam, from meeting the locals to being in awe of the landscape.
  • Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler (6:53) - A look at Tom Hiddleston's journey through Oahu, Hawaii, Queensland, Australia, and Ninh Binh, Vietnam for the movie's production.
  • Through the Lens: Brie Larson's Photography (2:19) - A montage of photos taken by Brie Larson on-set, as director Jordan Vogt-Roberts talks about the importance of having her carry a real camera to capture the small moments throughout the shoot.
  • Monarch Files 2.0 (Companion Archive) (7:58) - A collection of "classified" files documenting the events of the film, the ecosystem on Skull Island, its indigenous human inhabitants and its gigantic animal life.
  • Director Commentary - Vogt-Roberts talks about crafting the opening and title sequences, the nods to films and video games like Alien and Shadow of the Colossus, the actors and their performances, the cinematography, the various bits of improvised dialogue, shooting in Vietnam, the visual effects, the montages throughout the movie, the sound design, the color palette and more.
  • Deleted Scenes (3:45) - Four scenes.

Kong: Skull Island is available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as of July 18, 2017. The Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 58 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on March 10th, 2017.

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