To date, the only King Kong related media I’ve ever seen is the Peter Jackson version from 2005. Personally, I liked it. It went on way too long and the characters were flat, but the effects and creature design were amazing and certainly enough to keep me engaged in the story. With the newest installment in the franchise Kong: Skull Island, I had hoped for something along the same lines. All I desired at the end of the day were visually stunning action scenes among Kong and even the human characters. Here are my thoughts and feelings about the recent release Kong: Skull Island. I will be avoiding spoilers and reveals in this review completely.
A group of commandos/scientists embark on a mission to mysterious Skull Island in hopes of mapping the island. Upon arrival, they are quickly greeted by the infamous Kong, a gargantuan ape “the size of a building”, who quickly separate the team into various groups on different parts of the island. From here, they must find a way to regroup with their other comrades and find a way off the island, all the while avoiding the giant & deadly animals who habitat the island. As their numbers dwindle, they come to realize their deadliest enemy may not be Kong and that Kong himself may be their best hope to safely leave the island.
I had my reservations when I learned the director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, was mainly known for his indie debut The Kings of Summer, quite the far cry from the CGI heavy, big budgeted film audiences were expecting. Luckily, Roberts is able to achieve the pre-summer blockbuster look for the most part. The design of Kong looks decent enough and will probably satisfy most of the general viewing audience. The other monsters on the island are also visually sleek and impressive, engaging in convincing action sequences that were easily the highlight of the film for me.
When it came to the human characters, I got exactly what I expected, which wasn’t much. Everybody does a great job portraying their characters, working well with the generic characterizations and dialogue they were given. I was surprised to learn two actors from the film Straight Outta Compton (Corey Hawkins & Jason Mitchell) had roles in this film, roles that were huge variations from their roles in the former film. Thankfully, they show a lot of potential as young actors and I look forward to future roles these two have.
However, I found myself hardly caring for most of the main cast and honestly felt more connected with the lesser focused on characters. Tom Hiddleston plays a generic British commando. Brie Larson is the photographer archetype. Samuel L. Jackson is the leader of the commandos whose role is to be skeptical of the painfully average John Goodman character and also spout one liners here and there. John C. Reilly is admittedly great as a WWII solider stuck on the island for 29 years, but his humor is really hit or miss for the majority of the film. Since the bulk of the film’s humor comes from his character, for me, the humor really was not necessary in the long run. I also felt this ended up contributing to the inconsistent tone of the film. Should I be on the edge of my seat now, yet laughing hysterically 30 seconds later? Maybe if the majority of the humor had hit would I excuse these jarring shifts of tone, but unfortunately, Kong: Skull Island can’t deliver.
Kong: Skull Island is a decent action-adventure flick with an excellent visual style but a lacking story beneath the surface. Characters were there as food fodder for the beasts of Skull Island, but the film was going for that in the first place. For those who are able to turn off their brains and enjoy the spectacle in front of them, I would highly recommend this film to you. For me, nonetheless, Kong: Skull Island was an average pre-summer blockbuster that serves to fizzle out amongst a laundry list of potential superior films both already released and to be released in the upcoming months.