Review: Kong: Skull Island Realizes That People Go To Kong Movies To See A Giant Ape
Title: Kong: Skull Island
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Summary: A team of explorers and soldiers travel to an uncharted island in the Pacific, unaware that they are crossing into the domain of monsters, including the mythic Kong.
The reboot of Godzila that came out in in 2014 was not universally loved. When it was announced that they would be making a shared universe with all of the legendary monsters it felt like yet another attempt to grab the format that made Marvel so profitable. The second outing in this kaiju-verse came in the form of Kong: Skull Island and there is a lot riding on this movie. It was expensive to make and features an all star cast, but it is also the movie that is supposed to bring King Kong into this shared universe. The question is whether it would have the same problems as Godzilla or if it would be the first good entry into the series.
Kong: Skull Island stumbles a bit when it comes to pacing and story but makes up for it by featuring plenty of the title character.
If there is one thing that this movie captures so well is the time period. Kong: Skull Island takes place just as the Vietnam war is ending and it feels very much like a story that takes place in the 1970’s. The fact that the movie went out of its way to film in Vietnam makes everything feel that much more real. It feels like a war movie from that time period and has more than a few callbacks to Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. A good portion of the cast is a bunch of army guys that are on this expedition before finally going home and Samuel L. Jackson is the one that feels the most real. He is a man that is obviously unhappy that the war is ending and wants to go out in a blaze of glory. The Vietnam war fundamentally broke a lot of people that took part in it and the movie doesn’t shy away from that.
It also doesn’t shy away from its title character. Unlike Godzilla where we spent half of the movie just trying to get a decent look at Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island gives us a clear shot of Kong within the first five minutes. They never shy away from Kong or try to hide him in shadow even if it does make the moments he ‘sneaks’ up on people less believable. However, if given the choice between plausible deniability with a monster and no monster and more realism, the former wins true each time. Kong is an amazing feat as he punches helicopters out of the sky and fights giant monsters. The creature designs for the rest of the monsters that wander the island are all interestingly designed.
It’s probably a good thing that the movie doesn’t shy away from Kong because the humans aren’t anything to write home about. Once the choppers go down we are following essentially three groups of people and it can become difficult to tell everyone apart unless someone who isn’t army shows up in the shot. Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Mason (Brie Larson) are on hand to be our badass and our girl, but the movie doesn’t fall into the trope of making Mason a damsel that Kong carries to the top of the building. While everyone is well acted a lot of them come across as very one note. The exception is John C Reilly who just owns every scene that he’s in. He brings some needed levity to the movie, and while not all of his quirks land he brings some needed personality to the film.
Kong: Skull Island is a perfectly serviceable action movie that is likely going to be known for its after credits scene rather than the movie itself. While it stumbles when it come to character or story the movie recognizes that people go to a Kong movie to see Kong and they do let him shine.