Kong: Skull Island is the latest attempt at reviving the classic ape into cinemas, this time as part of Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse. Kong: Skull Island is completely unrelated to Peter Jackson’s mammoth remake, and instead serves as an entry meant to follow 2014’s Godzilla. Yes, a Godzilla vs. King Kong is coming, so hold on to your hats. For this incarnation of Kong, the story follows a secret organization called Monarch that hires a group to lead an expedition to an uncharted island in hopes of uncovering a new species. The movie takes place towards the end of the Vietnam War. Henry Jackman was brought on and was simply a perfect fit here for the score. His love for both traditional and non-traditional elements let him have lots of fun with this one. The score is a fun-filled adventure score with lots of scope, gravitas, and momentum along with a psychedelic 70’s vibe.
Henry Jackman does quite an admirable job at building scope and gravitas while still giving this score a sense of adventure and excitement. Henry’s theme for Kong is right in line with the way Max Steiner approached the character. A big lumbering descending motif signals strength and doom. And while there is plenty of peril and destruction in this film, the score fleshes out the island as well as the other not so friendly creatures on it. We get a sense of mystery and intrigue that reminded me of Jerry Goldsmith’s Congo that is then infused with the testosterone that Alan Silvestri brought to Predator. But the way Henry approaches it is very much his own, the score has a heartbeat behind it. We get traditional orchestral flourishes for big action with rich electronic textures to create suspense for the quieter scenes. The score is not meant as a character study, but surprisingly there’s an emotional current that carries you through the narrative. Kong and the human characters are detailed enough through the music to add an emotional grab, but it’s really the atmosphere and tone of the score that grabs you more and doesn't let go. The action set pieces are also expertly constructed, with the music doing some heavy lifting. While the inclusion of some easily placed “Braaaammmmsss” might overshadow some of the more interesting textures of this score, everything shines as a whole.
Henry Jackman’s Kong: Skull Island is full of energy and life, and does a fantastic job of crafting a wild ride filled with personality. The score packs a lot including rich orchestral flourishes, pulsing action strings, primitive percussion, grandiose chorus, 70’s rock guitars, electronic suspense textures and an emotional pull to make you invested in the journey. The score calls back to all the best qualities of action/adventure scores like Congo and Predator while doing it in Henry’s unique voice as a composer. And while it might sound like the score has a lot going on, it all works and it’s a fine-tuned machine that rarely stumbles.
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