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Kong: Skull Island (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Kong: Skull Island (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)I’m sorry but try as I might I’m just not a fan at all of 2014’s Godzilla reboot.  That’s not a slam to director Gareth Edwards because I love his work in Rogue One, but rather a multitude of things I felt were wrong with the effort.  I gave it many chances too as I even reluctantly bought it on Blu-ray, but try as I might it will not let me in for some reason.  Oh well.  I felt the same way about Man of Steel initially too and Batman v. Superman went on to make me appreciate it so much more.  Oh yeah that’s right!  If you didn’t put two and two together Kong: Skull Island is very much in the same cinematic universe as 2014’s Godzilla.  I wasn’t aware of that going in, but leaving it’s made clear and while you think I would have problems with that I actually don’t.  Let’s face it too because anyone with half a brain knows that like BvS the inevitable 2020 Godzilla vs. Kong will see the two unite to fight a greater foe.  However, I digress.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  I have had crap loads of fun with Kong: Skull Island and I want to tell you all why.

Kong Skull Island

Film 

Before we talk about the movie itself I wanted to circle back and explain what I meant about Kong: Skull Island being in the same cinematic universe as 2014’s Godzilla.  I’m doing so because I didn’t want to imply Kong was a direct sequel, but rather a prequel as Skull Island takes place in the 1970s.  However, fret not because by the after credits stinger you’ll know exactly how this all fits within Legendary’s Monsterverse.  For those of you interested in learning more there’s a brief but great article on it all here.  That should take care of that so now let’s talk some Kong: Skull Island!

Kong: Skull Island is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts off a screenplay written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, from a story by John Gatins. I don’t know how you feel about it, but normally three’s a crowd in the writing room.  Thankfully that doesn’t hamper the production here.  The film is a reboot of the King Kong franchise (a homage kind of to the 1933 film) and as I already mentioned up above serves as the second film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse.  It stars an ensemble cast consisting of Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary and John C. Reilly.  The monster movie follows a team of scientists and Vietnam War soldiers who travel to an uncharted island in the Pacific that encounter not only Kong, but other much more terrifying monsters called skull crawlers.  Ladies and gentlemen this is Kong: Skull Island.

What I love about Kong: Skull Island right out of the gate is he’s a good guy here.  I love and appreciate the former King Kong films, but by their end I was always left in a very bad mood.  I’m such an animal lover that it pisses me off seeing humans killing an animal, albeit a destructive one, out of sheer ignorance and hate.  The last Universal King Kong movie with Jack Black was executed so well, but I can’t watch it as the ending breaks my heart.  People suck.  Thankfully that’s not the case here as Kong gets to kill all the bad, ignorant people throughout here.  You have to love that!

It should also be noted that our Kong here is a juvenile 100-foot ape.  The other terrifying creatures I spoke of up above have seemingly wiped out all his family.  Yes he’s pissed off over that, but he doesn’t necessarily have all the hard knock, life lessons under this belt yet.  Because our story takes place in the 1970s by the time he faces off with Godzilla in 2020 (or whatever year they deem it takes place in) he will have some 50-plus years of life experience on his side,  That’s important to note in my opinion.

Let’s talk about what all goes down briefly here.  Scientists, soldiers and adventurers all unite here to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. The storm clouds and conditions that hide this island are so thick and extreme that these brave explorers really don’t know what they’re getting into until they finally arrive.  Reluctantly they quickly find out they have ventured into the domain of the mighty Kong.  In what would conceivably be thought of as the ultimate battle between man and nature as shown in past incarnations of this same subject matter I caution you not so quick.  Lose that way of thinking about Kong: Skull Island.  These explorers are in the middle of a  primal world where humanity does not belong.  Kong is the underdog here and as you’ll find out very much the hero the humans must learn to align with if they want to leave this place in one piece.  I have zero problems with this concept nor of the performances with one exception.  I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like Corey Hawkins here nor in 24 Legacy.  Kiefer Sutherland was smart to sit this newer series out, but I digress.  Ha ha.

So what I love most about Kong: Skull Island is its 1970s setting.  It honestly felt like I was transported back to the good old monster movies of the 1970s and earlier.  Yes the humans have a major stake in the storyline, but unlike say a Transformers film they are not outright annoying.  And anyone that’s unnecessary or mean to Kong you better believe they don’t last too long.  I like that.  We have a movie like I remember watching as a child growing up in the 1970s where I’m rooting for one monster to kill other monsters.  I realize we had that with 2014’s Godzilla, but for some reason and maybe it was the modern day setting it did not strike an emotional accord with me like Kong: Skull Island does here.  It’s a no nonsense, no-holds barred monster film of yesteryears done right with today’s big Hollywood budget.  You don’t often hear me say this so relish it when I do.  I don’t think I could really ask for anything more here.  The critics loved it.  It was a box office success.  I adore it, its Hawaiian locale setting and it’s monster-sized F-U-N.  It’s a winner clear and through and who knows maybe one day I will go back, revisit and appreciate 2014’s Godzilla even more because of it.  Stranger things have happened.

Furthermore, what’s really cool here is the filming of this one itself.  To fully immerse audiences in the mysterious Kong: Skull Island, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his team filmed across three continents over a six month period.  They captured Skull Island‘s primordial landscapes on Oahu, Hawaii, Australia’s Gold Coast and Vietnam, filming across multiple locations, some of which have never before been seen on film.  How cool is that?  If you can’t at least appreciate that, you can stop reading now and move onto the next review because I have nothing but great things to say about this 4K Ultra HD release from here on out.  You’ve been warned!  This one is monstrously incredible to behold.  Let’s get started!

Kong Skull Island

Video 

The below video score and related critique of things here are based upon my viewing of Warner Bros. 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Kong: Skull Island as well as the 1080p Blu-ray.

  • Encoding: HEVC / H.265
  • Resolution: 4K (2160p)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Make no mistake about it, Kong: Skull Island is a CG infestation at times, but that doesn’t hamper the 4K’s acute beauty throughout.  I’m not going to lie to you and say everything is perfect, but other than some bad explosions and softness at times onscreen elements are sharp, chiseled and detailed throughout.  Things that instantly come to mind and are noteworthy here include fabrics such as the 70’s tweed at the time and nylon, hairs, pores, stubble, sweat and my favorite individual beads of dust.  Yes Kong looks a little fake, but much like Caesar in my 4K review over here and here he never looks sharper right down to the individual hairs in his fur coat (19 million to be exact) and wrinkles in his cracked, dry paws.
  • Depth: The clarity department may not be 100% perfect, but I’ll be damn things sure look oh so spectacular in the depth of field arena.  Sweet baby Jesus it’s great!  There’s so much to mention, but I have to first go with the three-dimensional pop of all the characters and also interesting shots like one where you’re literally looking down the barrel of a gun.  The jungle is where it’s at that though baby.  Welcome to the jungle, indeed!  Things look three-dimensional throughout in all the jungle scenes not to mention the one sequence when all the natives were pointing spears in your face.  This one was really meant for 3D, but you know the story.  No 3D on the 4K UHD format.  Boo!
  • Black Levels: The black levels are surprisingly deep, dark and delicious, but also very natural too.  The HDR is a savior in darker scenes to ensure nothing gets left behind in the shadows and looks absolutely stunning in the nightclub scene in Act 1.
  • Color Reproduction: The colors fluctuate from Vietnam greens and yellows to flat out natural and perfect other times.  It starts out with a very vintage, 70’s like color palette, but things really improve color-wise when we get to Kong’s homeland.  The only time colors get ultra exaggerated are with the many explosions, which quite often looked really fake.
  • Flesh Tones: The skin tones were a bit warm at times, but for the most part looked natural and authentic.  It all depends upon the scene really.
  • Noise/Artifacts: Other than a light veneer of grain throughout I didn’t notice any problems or flaws with the presentation other than the CGI and fake explosion moments, which I made mention of up above.

Kong Skull Island

Audio 

The below audio score and critical comments of such are based solely upon my viewing of Warner Bros. 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Kong: Skull Island.  Both the 4K UHD disc and the 1080p Blu-ray one houses a monstrous Dolby Atmos surround track.  For some bizarre reason though upon hitting play to watch the main movie it automatically defaults to DTS-HD MA.  You have to manually select the Dolby Atmos surround track.  I don’t know why that would be, but it is.

  • Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French (Quebec) Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
  • Dynamics: This one can be loud and aggressive as you can imagine, but believe it or not there are many lulls and peaceful/eloquent sequences throughout.  There’s also a lot of cool 1970’s nostalgic songs throughout that make you just think Vietnam when you hear them.  Nevertheless there’s a sense of directionality and priority to all onscreen actions and not once does the dialogue ever get lost in any “hairy” situation that goes down here.
  • Height: The Atmos surround sound in the home here wasn’t as strong and prevalent as my theater experience was, but nevertheless it’s still a force to be reckoned with.  Kong: Skull Island provides the following rich examples of Atmos moments such as airplanes, score and soundtrack cuts, helicopters, rain, explosions, spiders attacking from above, birds, flares and more.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The bass throughout here fills your viewing room with a sense of heft to it all because when you think about it here this  King Kong is 100 feet tall so you better believe he’s a heavy one.  Furthermore, the LFE channel fills your soundscape with Kong and the Skull Crawlers’ mighty roars, rocks crashing, guns firing, explosions, punches and all the other heavy hitting action that goes down throughout.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: This is a monster action movie so besides the hefty bass that goes boom you can expect a lot of cool pans and scenes of directionality proportionate to the action that happens all around you.  Throughout my viewing the rears were filled with all the little ambiance and critters in the Vietnam jungle, gunshots, score, helicopter blades, thunder, bar patrons, water, footsteps, birds and more.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: The dialog is all prioritized, crystal clear and loud throughout.  I never had a problem hearing what was going on at all.

Kong Skull Island

Extras 

The Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack of Kong: Skull Island features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the theatrical version in 4K with HDR and a Blu-ray disc also featuring the theatrical version. The set also includes a digital version of the movie too redeemable in 4K UHD on VUDU.

Additionally, all of the special features, including interviews with filmmakers, new original shorts, featurettes, and deleted scenes, can be experienced in an entirely new, dynamic and immersive manner on tablets and mobile phones using the Warner Bros. Movies All Access App, available for both iOS and Android devices. So here’s how that all works.  When a Combo Pack is purchased and the digital movie is redeemed, or the digital movie is purchased from an UltraViolet retailer, the Warner Bros. Movies All Access App allows users to watch the movie and simultaneously experience synchronized content related to any scene, simply by rotating their device. Synchronized content is presented on the same screen while the movie is playing, thus enabling users to quickly learn more about any scene, such as actor biographies, scene locations, fun trivia, or image galleries.  Also, users can share movie clips with friends on social media and experience other immersive content.  The Movies All Access app is available for download on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

So now that we have that mumbo jumbo out of the way let’s talk about all the extras down below here housed on the 1080p Blu-ray disc.

  • Director’s Commentary (housed on both the UHD and BD discs) – Jordan Vogt-Roberts takes you through the entire film solo.  I listened to this from beginning to end as I worked on this review.  He’s not the most entertaining of speakers, but I loved hearing all about every little tidbit in the film you would most likely overlook while watching.  In other words he walks you through all the little nuances. I  did get goosebumps when he talked about the Apocalypse Now show with Kong silhouetted against the sun.
  • Creating a King: Realizing an Icon (HD, 11:39) – This extra examines the legacy of the character with interviews featuring the cast and filmmakers.  It talks about how this is not your typical King Kong beauty and the beast type of story.  It further dives into how the filmmakers told a new story and provided us reasons why this movie should even exist.
  • Creating a King: Summoning a God (HD, 12:47) – This one pays homage to King Kong, but explores this new take on the character with today’s advances in technology and innovation.  It’s more like the 1933 version with King Kong standing 100 feet tall built out of 500 thousand plus polygons.  Believe it or not there are 19 million hairs on Kong.  Furthermore, this extra also explores the Vietnam sets and the Skull Crawler monsters.
  • Monarch Files 2.0 (HD, 7:58) – This one was interesting, but at the end of the day it’s just a companion piece.  It’s a fake documentary that chronicles the adventures of everything that happened in this film, a recount of things so to speak.
  • Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler (HD, 6:53) – This one is all about Tom’s character as we go behind the scenes with him in all the different exotic locations.  It’s a video diary so to speak.  If you ever want to hear Tom say “good morning Vietnam,” then this extra is for you.  I’d love to see him get a chance at James Bond one day.  What about you?
  • Through the Lens: Brie Larson’s Photography (HD, 2:19) – This one is short, but really cool.  It shows you all the REAL photos that Brie really took while filming since her character was that of a war photographer after all.  They even gave her training in picture taking.  How cool!
  • On Location: Vietnam (HD, 5:38) – This is one of the first films to shoot in this scale there and this extra takes behind the scenes with the cast and crew in Vietnam.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 3:45)

Kong Skull Island

Summary 

Kong: Skull Island was a very pleasant surprise for me.  I say that because the theatrical experience in IMAX was pure bliss and I never thought I would have that much fun with it.  Now it’s even better!  It may not be on an IMAX screen here at home, but I now get to enjoy it whenever I damn well please with that ear blistering Dolby Atmosphere track to boot.  Life doesn’t get any better than this!  What are you waiting for?  You ready to add this MONSTER-size Warner Bros. release to your ever growing 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray collection?  Feed your collection something worthy!  Pre-order Kong: Skull Island today!  Eat it all up on July 18th!  This one comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from yours truly.

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DISCLAIMER: This 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review was judged and graded using the following 4K certified Ultra HD Premium television set found here and player here.  For your maximum reading pleasure make sure to check out all our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews archived here.

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Kong: Skull Island

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Kong Skull Island 4K Cover

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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