The first movie about a huge gorilla called Kong could be seen in the cinemas in 1933. The special effects, while groundbreaking for their time, are a far cry from the photo-realistic computer animation techniques used today. After a couple of remakes and other stories involving Kong, the time was deemed right to see recent animation quality in full effect in the new origin story: Kong: Skull Island.
In 2014 another movie about the other big monster, Godzilla, was released. The music for that movie was written by none other than Alexandre Desplat. Both movies were produced by Warner Brothers with the idea of Godzilla and Kong meeting in a future movie. Henry Jackman was hired to provide music for the film.. The movie takes place in the ’70s and features several famous songs from the era that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts included creating a sense of fun as well as ground the film in that decade. It was Jackman’s job to fill in the blanks in between with a solid symphonic score. Jackman incorporates some classic ‘70s guitars, which pairs the score well with the songs.
The first track of the album is “South Pacific” and is just some musical lines. The next one is “The Beach” which starts with percussion which is then joined by loud bursts of one tone done by blaring trombones to introduce Kong. This loud burst is done a lot lately in film music and they even have given it a name: Horn of Doom. “Project Monarch” is played during the main titles and this monarch theme has a nice rhythmic pattern in the strings. The rest of the orchestra plays a commendable melody over it. We can also hear the aforementioned guitars in this track. “Packard’s Blues” is something completely different, featuring some low-key and melancholic guitar that represents Col. Packard, played by Samuel L. Jackson. The next track, “Assembling the Team,” is a very noteworthy track. It starts with a base of melodic percussion and strings accompanying a simple horn solo. The guitars kick in for a while before the track returns to the percussion and strings.
Tension builds in “Into the Storm,” and electric guitar features prominently again occasionally joined by swelling orchestra. The track ends with only the blues guitar playing. “The Island” is a short and powerful track that starts with the Monarch theme on guitar, this time with the full orchestra taking over and adding some very beautiful melodies. The next track, “Kong the Destroyer,” starts with a musical build-up with the occasional horn of doom. Halfway through we can hear the introduction of the Kong theme, that also incorporates the horn of doom sound.
There is not much going on melody-wise in the next couple of tracks. Some subtle nods to past themes can be heard. The tense music that starts in “Monsters Exist” continues in “Spider Attack” and comes to a halt in “Dominant Species.” “The Temple” is something different. It starts very serenely, with a flute and choir. The orchestra joins later on in the track and ends with a very subtle variation of the Kong theme. “Grey Fox” introduces the Marlow theme, which is a pretty standard patriotic theme on trumpets. From its title, you might expect “Kong the Protector” to be something grand, but it’s little more than some brooding orchestra and choir. The track is just a couple of long lines and hardly any melody at all. “Marlow’s Farwell” has a slightly different version of the Marlow theme and transitions into the flute that we heard before in “The Temple”. The tracks “Lost,” and “The Boneyard,” build up the tension to “Ambushed” which to me sounds like a battle scene, with not much interesting going on musically.
“The Heart of Kong,” “Man vs. Beast,” and “Creature from the Deep,” all set proper tones for the scenes they accompany but are not much to listen to on their own. “The Battle of Skull Island” starts with a slightly distorted version of the Monarch theme, and features also a grander version of the Marlow theme. Sadly it transitions into standard action music to support all the fighting on the screen. “King Kong” is a very emotional and melodic track, which you might not expect from the track title, but it ends with a solid finale with full orchestra and choir. “Monster Mash” is the last track and contains a slightly different version of the Kong theme.
Overall I think it is a decent score for the movie. It supports the scenes very well when the ‘70s songs are not playing. The themes are okay, but not fantastic. One thing that is lacking for me is an overall identity. The themes in the score, like the Monarch theme, Marlow theme or the Kong theme can be heard from time to time, but as far as I can hear there is nothing that connects them all together. Maybe it is there in the music, but if that is the case then it is too subtle for my ears. Jackman did a decent job for a score that was only meant to heighten the film’s emotion and underscore the action. I have heard much blander scores than this, but it will still not get much listening time from me outside of its film. I am quite curious who will compose the new monster movie.
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The highlights are in bold.
- South Pacific (0:35)
- The Beach (1:27)
- Project Monarch (2:02)
- Packard’s Blues (1:14)
- Assembling the Team (1:48)
- Into the Storm (2:44)
- The Island (1:16)
- Kong the Destroyer (3:43)
- Monsters Exist (2:27)
- Spider Attack (1:39)
- Dominant Species (2:00)
- The Temple (5:47)
- Grey Fox (2:33)
- Kong the Protector (1:49)
- Marlow’s Farewell (2:37)
- Lost (1:27)
- The Boneyard (1:52)
- Ambushed (2:21)
- The Heart of Kong (2:11)
- Man vs. Beast (2:31)
- Creature from the Deep (2:44)
- The Battle of Skull Island (5:46)
- King Kong (2:42)
- Monster Mash (Bonus Track) (1:27)
Total length: 56 minutes
WaterTower Music (2017)