The following is a review of Kong: Skull Island – Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
In 2014, no film disappointed me more than Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla. It’s not a bad film, per se – and I do think Gareth Edwards is a talented director – but it remains one of the biggest movie disappointments over the last few years, for me. Therefore, I was, obviously, apprehensive about the next film in Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s monster movie cinematic universe.
My main issues with Godzilla were that Godzilla, essentially, had a story that was populated with mostly uninteresting characters, and that I also felt the marketing had promised me much more of both Bryan Cranston and the titular monster than we were given. Does Kong: Skull Island share those issues? Well. Yes and no.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island takes place in 1973, and it follows government agent Bill Randa’s (played by John Goodman) expedition to the uncharted territory known only as ‘Skull Island.’ The expedition is escorted by a helicopter squadron – led by Lt. Col. Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson) – and guided by James Conrad (played by Tom Hiddleston), a former British Special Air Service Captain.
Although it was just supposed to be a simple, scientific expedition, a pacifist photojournalist – Mason Weaver (played by Brie Larson) – tags along, as she believes the ‘expedition’ is just a cover for some unknown military operation. But nothing could’ve possibly prepared her for the truth, as they are attacked by a colossal angry ape once they reach the island – an ape known only as Kong.
Kong: Skull Island‘s ensemble cast was one of its selling points, and, indeed, one of the reasons why I had hope for a new and different take on the King Kong character. Sadly, and surprisingly, my issues with the film begin with the use of the ensemble cast.
I was always worried about how Tom Hiddleston would fit in his role. Frankly, I think his role has been miscast. However, as Hiddleston, and, indeed, the character is completely wasted, it doesn’t really matter if it was miscast or not. In fact, I think most of the human characters needed work, and some of the greatest actors and actresses in the world – like John Goodman and Brie Larson – are completely wasted.
In Godzilla, all Ken Watanabe got to do was react to seeing the titular monster, and that is pretty much all Brie Larson gets to do in Kong: Skull Island as well. So, once again, essential members of a monster movie’s cast are wasted, and a good chunk of the characters are underdeveloped or uninteresting.
It isn’t the film’s only issue, though. My biggest problem with Kong: Skull Island is, actually, the way it has been put together. I thought that there was some pretty wonky editing in Kong: Skull Island, and the film just felt a little but muddled, at times. The film also gives us a very cartoony version of 1973 complete with the most generic and cliché Vietnam-era war soundtrack.
I was surprised by how much humor was in Kong: Skull Island. John C. Reilly plays a lieutenant who has been stranded on Skull Island since World War II, and he is probably the best human character in the film. However, although there is some comedy that works in the film, I did think Kong: Skull Island was tonally inconsistent.
But it is a fun film to watch. Why? Well, what is the first rule of making a monster movie? The monster has to be thrilling to watch. And I ended up really enjoying Kong: Skull Island because of the monster movie elements that work quite well. The so-called Skull Crawlers are terrifying, and there is this one giant spider that may essentially work as nightmare fuel for people like me.
But Kong really is the star – or, more appropriately, King – of Kong: Skull Island. I was absolutely transfixed by Kong whenever he was on screen. If you, like me, thought that Godzilla was underused in Edwards’ film, then rest assured that Kong gets many moments to shine and shock.
But this isn’t a glowing recommendation. Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island is nothing more than a fine and fun new monster movie, which, in spite of serious character issues, manages to be a great mindless, popcorn movie for fans of the genre.
Also, as a side-note, if you enjoy Kong: Skull Island – and if you enjoy monster movies, in general – then make sure to stay until the credits stop rolling. There is a really cool little teaser scene for the future of monster movies at the very end.
7 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex