“Kong: Skull Island” was a bit like a delicious, yet very saturated meal. It’s enjoyable, but after an hour, it leaves you empty. Does that mean the film was bad? Anything but. It was a fun ride, even when it made no sense at all.
As a monster movie, the film was completely worth the ticket price. This is absolutely one to catch while in theaters. The visuals were great, the titular character was a blast to watch, and there was enough chaos to keep you satiated for the barely two hour run-time.
The film’s opening credit sequence informs the audience that this is not the 1933 Kong, but instead a new Vietnam War era incarnation. From there, Bill Randa (John Goodman) gets approval from a member of the Senate to take scientists to a never-before-seen island that he hoped to discover before the Russians (remember, this is Cold War era America), and I found his reason in this scene to be pretty clever. It employed fun world-buildin, and a good way to quickly get the story moving.
“Kong” is paced pretty well. There is barely any downtime, and the story picks up and runs after Goodman’s talk with the senator. From there, Randa requests a military escort.
The issues surface when taking into account the amount of time the audience spends with the “characters”. You don’t go into a King Kong movie, or any monster movie really, assuming the human side of the story will be nearly as entertaining as the massive fight scenes. I figured the humans would be the B-story to Kong’s A, or at least the humans would add something to the Kong section.
Having such an impressive supporting cast really should have helped make their story interesting. Tom Hiddleston shined as Loki in “The Avengers”, and Brie Larson earned an Oscar for her defining role in “Room”, so why are they so boring and useless in this project? Hiddleston played the macho mercenary with some life, but the script surely didn’t give him much to work with. I can’t remember Larson delivering a single line of dialogue that wasn’t rife with cliché and cheese. Other members of the cast include a severely underused John Goodman, an atypical Samuel L. Jackson, and Shea Whigham as detached soldier #4.
There was a running line throughout, playing off of a letter that one of the soldiers was writing to his son. His letter began with “Dear Billy,” and the supporting characters would recite this two word phrase, followed by whatever they were going through, either for laughs or for dramatic purposes. This line was so belabored and beaten to death, that after a character said “Dear Billy…” for the sixth time, my eyes rolled all the way around my skull.
John C. Reilly was easily the best character of them all, as a long forgotten World War II fighter pilot whose plane was shot down over Skull Island. His character was played with such life and humor, you really grasped onto him for levity.
Now, again, just because the characters weren’t great does not mean the film was bad. It can only take away from the film if you were expecting a high brow drama. Even if you were expecting something more akin to Peter Jackson’s 2005 “King Kong”, you’d be going in with the wrong mindset. Where that was a lengthy, character driven epic, this is a visual feast. It’s Vietnam War era Kong, with beautiful shots of a blood red horizon with the over 100-foot-tall Kong towering over the region. It looks great.
Kong’s design is good and much more man-like than the 2005 version, which looked like a large gorilla. Here, Kong is indeed King of the island. Creatures and human inhabitants all cower at Kong’s enormous feet. Since most of the fun of the film is with its creatures, I won’t divulge who or what he fights. There are several large-scale creature fights, and frankly, they are all awesome. I’m glad the filmmakers focused on the fights in this film because they were fun as hell.
I look forward to a future where the Godzilla from Gareth Edward’s 2014 film and this Kong can fight. Given that these two films are from the same production company, and in the same cinematic universe, I am excited to see what comes next.