Well, this shared monster universe ( “Monsterverse”, if you will) is off to an iffy start. Let’s get right to it.
Kong: Skull Island was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, and features a group made up of soldiers, scientists, and a photographer who all venture to an uncharted island (each for their own reasons), only to discover the island is full of huge and dangerous creatures that want them dead, as well as Kong: the giant ape that rules the land.
Now let me be honest here: I went into this movie with very high expectations. I had seen trailers (both of which I thought were pretty impressive), and I was pretty much expecting a movie with compelling characters and pretty jaw-dropping action sequences. Sadly, I initially left the theaters a bit disappointed. Let me explain why.
[Heads up: this is going to have SPOILERS. Read ahead at your own risk]
Let’s start with this film’s characters. We’re introduced to a bunch of people. Here are the main characters: John Goodman, who plays a scientist of sorts who is leading the expedition to this island in hopes of finding evidence of Kong and proving that he isn’t crazy. Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a military general that after a run-in with Kong at the beginning of the film, is hell-bent on settling the score and killing him. Brie Larson plays an anti-war photographer who hopes to go to this island and get some good shots for a good story. Finally, we have Tom Hiddleston’s character, who is presented as the reluctant hero. He’s only on the island because he was promised money in exchange for providing this expedition with his unique set of tracking and combat skills. Oh yeah and John C Reilly is in this movie too. He played a WWII pilot that’d been stranded on the island for years. He also serves as the films comic relief. There’s also a pretty big supporting cast comprised of Toby Kebell, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, and more, but there roles weren’t that big.
…And that’s pretty much it. That’s as deep as each character gets. We’re shown a group of people that had the potential to be somewhat interesting if written correctly, but due to lazy script writing, we’re given a bunch of one-dimensional main characters. Hiddleston’s character had a brief moment with Brie Larson’s character where he told her a story from his past, and I guess that was supposed to make us feel something for him. Sadly, it didn’t work. It’s pretty safe to say that Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Rielly were the most interesting characters in this whole film (besides Kong, of course), and that’s mostly because of their own personalities shining through their characters, not necessarily because of the characters themselves. And that’s not me saying that these actors didn’t do their best, because it’s clear that they did. However, they drew the short end of the stick here.
Characters aside, i will say the direction of this film was pretty good. I haven’t personally seen any other film that Roberts has directed, but i do know that this was his first big blockbuster, and it kind of shows. There were a lot of wide shots during scenes when Kong was on screen, and they were actually pretty impressive. But during other scenes there were some close-ups that were awkward, and other uses of the camera that seemed a little weird for this type of film. Hollywood has been bringing a lot of indie directors on to direct big films lately, and it’s usually a hit or miss. This film rides the middle of both sides for me.
The action in this movie is how you would expect it to be: massive. You’ve got a giant ape fighting other giant monsters on an island, so of course it’s going to be entertaining as hell to watch. Any scene featuring Kong was pretty epic. The scenes with our human characters fighting were decent enough. However, every scene with Tom Hiddleston’s character seemed so over the top. They really wanted to make his character seem like a badass, and it was kind of laughable.
The tone and pacing of this film was a bit all over the place. At times it felt like a comedy (with some very forced, very flat jokes), and at other times it felt like it wanted to be a straight-up action film. Films suffering from identity crisis are never good.
This movie also suffered some choppy editing, especially in the first act. They made it such a huge point of duty to introduce us to all of these characters, that it felt weird and disconnected at times. Like I said, this film really rides the line of hit or miss.
I don’t have much more to say about this film, and if I did it will be pretty repetitive. I got to see this one a few days before it released, and when I initially saw it, I was very let down. However, after sitting on it for a few days, I see that I was looking to deeply into the kind of film that this was. Kong: Skull Island is a big action blockbuster with some impressive action scenes, and it did what it was supposed to do: give us King Kong. Sure, the characters were dry and the pacing was choppy along the way, but this film was meant to help set up a larger universe and I guess it did that. Can’t be mad at them for that. In the end, Kong: Skull Island is a decent action film, and I would recommend you see it at least once.
Final Score: 6 out of 10
Kong: Skull Island is in theaters now.