Film Review: ‘Kong: Skull Island’

Written by on March 17, 2017

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Studio(s): Legendary Entertainment, Tencent Pictures
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson
Release Date: March 10th, 2017

Kong: Skull Island is the second entry into Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s “MonsterVerse,” with 2014’s Godzilla reboot being the first. Warner Bros. is using these famous properties to try to catch lightning in a bottle by jamming them all together in a single universe and hoping it works, and it hasn’t been too disappointing yet. All people want to see from Godzilla or Kong: Skull Island is a giant monkey or lizard bonking another giant mythical creature, and I can honestly say that’s what you’re going to get from this film.

Kong: Skull Island starts off as two scientists, Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are seeking federal funding for a new expedition to investigate the mysterious Skull Island. After twisting some arms, they receive that funding and set off on the expedition.

Along the way, they enlist the help of a band of merry misfits to accompany them: Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), who is charged with the task of giving the scientists a military transport to and from the island; photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who has a sneaking suspicion that something isn’t quite right about this expedition; and professional tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston).

Obviously, when they get there, there’s a very large, very pissed off monkey ready to snap their helicopters like worn-out toothpicks. They enlist the help of Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been trapped on the island for 28 years, to help them out.

There are a few other supporting characters here and there, but they’re basically just monkey fodder. To be completely honest, most of the characters could have been replaced by a soggy mop with a blonde wig and I’m not sure it would’ve been noticeable. If you ask me in three days what John Goodman’s character’s name was, I’d probably be forced to tell you Mr. Science Man.

The cast here would be phenomenal in just about any other movie. Tom Hiddleston is charismatic as hell, if not a little creepy. Samuel L. Jackson is the badassiest badass to ever be in Hollywood. John Goodman is funny to listen to just because he’s so grumpy all the time. Brie Larson is just straight up a phenomenal actress. But almost every paper-thin representation of a “character” is so phoned in that some of the dialogue becomes laughable.

John C. Reilly seemed to be the only one who really gave a damn about this movie. He’s like the nerdy kid who really liked King Kong growing up, so he was going to give his all to make this performance memorable, and he did. She tried her hardest, but Brie Larson’s awful lack of screen time was a major detriment to the film.

It genuinely appeared as though John Goodman hated every second of his life during the production of this film. He’s a very grumpy-looking man, and his voice is callous at best, but you can always tell when he’s enjoying himself. This wasn’t one of those times, and it really showed. It was painful to watch.

And just to be clear: None of this is alleviated by the fact that Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie. Just because there’s a big monkey slapping big lizard creatures doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have to be good. I hate the phrase “a good monster movie”; a good film is a good film. It doesn’t matter what the genre is.

But the action scenes in this film were stylish, and honestly pretty violent. I loved most of them. To be frank, towards the end of the film, I was hoping more of the human characters would just die already so I could watch King Kong mash other monsters’ faces in like a child trying to fit a circular block through a square hole.

The first and second acts of the film focus too much on the human characters. Who gives a damn about Tom Hiddleston’s character here? No one, that’s who. But when the film lets Kong out of his cage and just lets him kill stuff, it’s a symphony of destruction and it’s very fun to watch. Some of the kills and language in the film even bordered on a R-rating, so it’ll be interesting to see if Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment slide down that slippery slope.

The third act is where Kong: Skull Island shines. The humans are practically non-factors, and it’s just Kong vs. Other Big Scary Monsters. The way Kong deals with the final enemy is just so gruesome and violent but it’s so satisfying.

Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. still have a very long way to go if they want their new “MonsterVerse” to be anything special, but Kong: Skull Island is a step in the right direction. The characters suck, but eh, who cares? You get to watch King Kong punch a stegosaurus imposter right in the face, and it’s a rip-roaring good time.

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