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Soundtrack review: Kong: Skull Island (Henry Jackman – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Kong: Skull Island (Henry Jackman – 2017)

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“Kong: Skull Island” is a 2017 American monster film directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, from a story by John Gatins. The film is a reboot of the King Kong franchise and 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 film follows a team of scientists and Vietnam War soldiers who travel to an uncharted island in the Pacific and encounter terrifying creatures and the mighty Kong. Henry Jackman wrote the score and oddly he’s a hit and miss composer for me with great highs when we writes for smaller films and a bit less exciting for the blockbusters. I hope he can break the mold with this one. After all, that’s what happened with the first score in this monsterverse when Alexandre Desplat, usually a very unexciting composer for me, delivered a fantastic score for “Godzilla”.

The opening of the score gives me hope as both “South Pacific” and “The beach” are as monstrous as I needed them. I need to feel the terror and sheer size of the main character I need to feel crushed under that awe and those first two short cues give me that. I am also curious if Jackman would infuse some 70s vibes in his music since the music takes place in that decade. The psychedelic electric guitar in “Packard’s blues” and “Assembling the team” brings a small taste of that and is enough to place the score in time and not shift the attention away from the story.

The excitement of that opening though starts fading as the score progresses. The best cues seem to be the ones dealing with the landscape and creatures while the action parts feel like fillers. “The island” gets me all invested in the score again and “Kong the destroyer” hits me with all its might. I can imagine this cue going toe to toe with Desplat’s violent strings from “Godzilla”. I hear the connection between them even if I doubt this was Henry Jackman’s intention.

The moments of brilliance though are scattered. There’s a lot of filler music that didn’t bother me in the context of the movie as my eyes were drawn to the very exciting things happening on screen but which doesn’t necessarily work as a standalone listen. Take “The temple” for example, the longest cue from this score, a cue that just dwells in low key tense mode for almost six minutes. Then comes a beautiful and melancholic military cue like “Grey fox” that shows me once again how inconsistent “Kong: Skull Island” is; it opens a window of sunshine and hope. This mood continues in “Marlowe’s farewell” and showcases the vast repertoire of Henry Jackman.

While it functions well in the movie and has a few highlights, “Kong: Skull Island” is not a score I will remember much from once it’s over. It’s a shame because the filler moments even out the awesome might of the cues that depict the creatures of the island.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 24 / 56

Album excellence: 43%

Highlights:

South Pacific

The Beach

The Island

Kong the Destroyer

Grey Fox

Ambushed

Man vs. Beast

Creature from the Deep

The Battle of Skull Island

Monster Mash (Bonus Track)

 

 

 

 

 

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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