King Kong

All posts tagged King Kong

Kong: Skull Island Brings Monster Mayhem!

Published March 13, 2017 by rmpixie

Kong: Skull Island (2017, 1 hr., 58 mins)

If you know me, you know this pixie loves her monsters. Big, small, ugly, or cute, I need a weekly dose of monsters and creepy crawlies to keep me going. The promise of that plus the iconic King Kong being revived for 2017 in Kong: Skull Island made me perk up in the hopes of some great monster action, and I definitely got my fill.

Set in the same universe as the 2014 version of Godzilla, government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) and seismologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) go to Washington in 1973 to beg for funding and a military escort to a remote island. It’s their hope to be the first to discover a whole new eco-system. The Viet Nam War has also ended, and their military detail is led by Lieutenant Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who, after the war, feels a sense of loss and displacement after the sacrifices he made for his country. Randa adds the surly and ruggedly handsome ex-soldier and tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and the weathered but plucky photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to be a part of their quest. They must all overcome personal agendas and fight for their lives as the island holds way more than they bargained for.

Kong: Skull Island is more fun than a barrel of monkeys (sorry!) because we get one gigantic primate and his prehistoric friends (and foes). It’s a clever blend of traditional war movie, adventure and fantasy quest at its best with some not-so-subtle nods to Apocalypse Now, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (see various character names for proof), and even Platoon. These nods would normally distract me, but aside from some clichéd music choices, the writers somehow got the right balance without regurgitating the same old war stories. They also made the right choice with splitting up characters into teams with different agendas. It made for great adventure a la Jules Verne, and gave us a snapshot of who they were and what they wanted out of the expedition with the right amount of exposition; in fact, I thought the story and pacing made the almost 2-hour film seem a lot shorter.

Some interesting choices were made for the cast. Most of the supporting talent I could take or leave, but it was nice to see Corey Hawkins from Straight Outta Compton and The Walking Dead don his nerd hat, Boardwalk Empire’s Shea Whigham as the all-or-nothing Captain Cole and a woman of colour with Tian Jing as the biologist San Lin (Hey Hollywood, we need more, please!). I was thrilled to see John C. Riley in the trailers (he, aside from the monsters, was a huge draw for me) and he didn’t disappoint as the hilariously loopy fighter pilot Lieutenant Marlow who had been stranded on Skull Island since World War II.  He was necessary for the plot, but at times I felt he was put into the story with a neon “comic relief” sign over his head. This is in part to the uneven treatment of tracker Conrad and photographer Weaver. They were so perfectly coiffed after each perilous moment, with glowing skin and shimmering lip gloss, that there wasn’t any room for their characters to be developed. The one actor that did surprise me was Jackson. In a rare moment he actually showed some range outside of his potty-mouthed villain shtick, showing us a conflicted, revenge obsessed man portrayed with a lot of passion.

And the monsters? Oh, the monsters!! Kong was a thing of beauty, with all the detail and emotion from a CGI character you could want. Terry Notary did the ape acting for Kong and is another simian movement expert alongside his colleague Andy Serkis. The horrifying “Skullcrawlers” made me jump for joy with their reptilian bodies and huge gaping mouths. Kong’s sensational fight scenes made me want to see more fantastic animals, but there was only so much time! Hats off to the long, long list of the incredible concept team and digital artists for a job well done. I also want to point out the “Iwi” people, the indigenous tribe of Skull Island that took Marlow in after he was stranded. The concept for them was really beautiful, although their silent society spoke volumes thematically. There are actually a lot of themes in this film, with Kong representing nature or the rage against war, and the indigenous people silenced against or perhaps because of the march of progress, but upon further reflection, this film just doesn’t have the legs for heady discussions.

Yes, I enjoyed Kong: Skull Island despite the handful of issues I had with it.  Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ first big budget movie offers an intro for the newly imagined Kong and his world, and I can only hope for meatier stories in the future. The film should definitely be seen on the biggest screen possible (I saw it in IMAX 3D thanks to the horror boyfriend), and stay for the end of credit scenes that made me squeal and clap. Godzilla and Kong met in 1962, and with this new “Monsterverse” where there’s a franchise afoot with all my favourite monsters, there’s a juicy re-match on its way!

Check out this cool website for Monarch, the research company in the Godzilla/Kong Monsterverse here.

 

Face Off Season 10 Episode 12: Creatures from Skull Island!

Published March 31, 2016 by rmpixie

The final four artists had to pull out all the stops to make it to the finale, and this time, they would do it in the jungle.  They met in a green paradise with different dig sites surrounding them.  Their Spotlight Challenge would involve the legendary King Kong and his origins from Skull Island.  Executive producer for Universal Creative Mike West was their guest for the challenge intro because his newest project for Universal Orlando revolved around the giant simian.  Skull Island:  Reign of Kong, an interactive attraction where visitors get lost in an intense adventure and encounter different prehistoric species before they meet Kong would be the inspiration for the artists.  West explained that Skull Island was kept warm due to thermal winds, allowing prehistoric creatures to survive, evolve, and become more dangerous and intelligent.  Their challenge was to choose one creature from the dig sites and imagine how it would evolve if it had survived on Skull Island.  The winner of this challenge would get a trip for two to Universal Orlando Resorts and first dibs at a visit to Reign of Kong, as well be the first person picked for the finale.

Rob created an evolved V. Rex or Vastatosaurus, a giant dinosaur creature.  He made the evolved character smaller, adapting to the indigenous people to become a dinosaur/human hybrid.  He had trouble right from the start and felt the face was too cartoony.  He added teeth to cover a smiley mouth and give it a more fierce look.  Mr. Westmore told him to pick his detailing placements wisely.  He took a lot of time with the reptilian scales by drawing a grid and rounding out the edges of each little square.  It took a long time but he was happy with the result. He created a crocodile inspired back piece and had to work fast to save time, but quickly ran out when it came to painting.  He had to throw on hemp fibers to cover areas he didn’t paint and was panicked by the end of last looks.  I thought his head sculpt was amazing!  The judges thought so too, although they thought he should have covered the model’s shoulders and the paint should have enhanced the detailed sculpting.

Rob and his V. Rex

Rob and his V. Rex

 

 

Walter picked a bat-like creature called Terapusmordax.  He designed an evolved creature that had wings as well as arms for battle.  He added a lot of texture to the face and Mr. Westmore advised him to go tan with the colour and enhance it with lots of shading for a leathery look.  Walter fabricated wings, but broke a spring mechanism that would have made them unfold and had to settle for a static wing.  He used a thin layer of latex with holes in it for a war-worn look to the wing skin, and painted on veins.  The judges loved his character! They felt the facial forms were impressive, the paint job incorporated great tones, and he added great detail to the creature’s eyes.  They would have liked the wings to fold down, but they let that go because the character was definitely inspired by Skull Island.

Walter and his Terapusmordax

Walter and his Terapusmordax

 

 

Mel worked on a Decarnocimex .  It was an insect with a rounded exoskeleton.  She designed an upright hybrid with a hunched back.  She first came up with a multiple eyed creature, but Mr. Westmore felt it could look like a mask, so she started over again, using different bug references and geometrical shapes to map out the face.  She was also worried about fabrication, but with a little ingenuity and duct tape, she came up with a decent tail.  She pre-painted as much as she could, and used a crown to cover areas that were exposed.   The judges appreciated the amount of work she put into the character as well as the elegant look.  It was nice up close for them, and they loved the fabrication.

Mel and her Decarnocimex

Mel and her Decarnocimex

 

 

Melissa’s Arachnocidis or Arcachno-Claw, was a scavenger that set traps for food.  She wanted to go outside of her comfort zone and created mandibles in the face.  She made bumps in the face sculpt with pearls, and made sure every detail in the face sculpt was perfect before molding.  She fabricated pincers, chest armour, and mandibles, and did a ton of painting.  The judges loved the forms and paint job.  They felt there was a balance between fabrication and makeup, and it was a complete and aesthetically pleasing character.

Melissa and her Arachno-Claw

Melissa and her Arachno-Claw

 

 

The winner of this challenge and of the trip was Melissa!!  They loved her concept and felt it was the best realized character.  She was the first to get to the finale, and was really honoured.  She was also stoked to take her son to the Skull Island attraction.

The second person going to the finale was Walter.  His character was definitely of Skull Island stock and had some cool sculptural aspects.

The third person in the finale would be Rob for his incredibly detailed sculpting which is clearly his gift.

That meant Mel was going home.  The judges had a hard time picking her since she really delivered this challenge, and recognized her talent.  She felt privileged to be on the show and to have made it that far.

McKenzie would leave the 3 finalists in suspense, only revealing that there was something big in store next week with a special guest.  Bring on the finale!!

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