King Kong is back for his 8th big screen outing. Somehow, the story of this giant ape has been revisited and rebooted about as many times as Spider-Man. Each movie has shown some variation on the story told in the 1933 classic, but its very difficult to improve on what was developed there. I actually appreciate Peter Jackson’s 2005 take on the 8th Wonder of the World.
Now, we have Kong: Skull Island which attempts to tell a different story for a unique end goal.
Near the tail-end of the Vietnam war, a few scientists (led by John Goodman’s character) join forces with a war photographer (Brie Larson), a skilled tracker (Tom Hiddleston) and a small crew of soldiers (led by Samuel L. Jackson). Together, this group travels to an uncharted island, called Skull Island, to gather research about its landscape.
Note to self – It’s probably best to avoid places named after skulls or refer to death.
While on Skull Island, the group encounters demon lizards (not the space lizards from Great Wall), an insane John C. Reilly and an ape the size of a building.
Kong: Skull Island is meant to be a tentpole movie and purposely provides a limited scope of the Kong story. Yet, some of the creative choices feel haphazard and created mostly for style than being part of a bigger cinematic picture. The reason for the ’70s era being utilized never feels quite clear and may end up limiting possible sequels.
The cast list boasts many impressive actors. Beyond the main stars mentioned, we get great character actors in Corey Hawkins, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell and Thomas Mann.
All this said, no one is going to this movie to see the actors. (except maybe Hiddlestoners… that’s a thing, right?) It seems as if the actors know that they are filler between the action, because line delivery is stale and the dialogue feels forced. This is a shame because they invested in a great deal of talent. My major gripe comes down to the casting and predictable character played by Samuel L. Jackson. He chews the scenery, but doesn’t even seem to be enjoying it. Between his story, John C. Reilly’s eccentric character and Tom W. Hiddleston’s explorer, the tone shifts dramatically every few minutes. (yes, I looked up Hiddleston’s middle name just so he could fit in.)
What everyone is seeing this for is the monster-fighting action. Big budget movie fans will not be let down by the violence. I’d equate Kong in quality and action-ratio to Jurassic World or Godzilla (2014). There are fun moments that lead to a great 20-minute battle at the end. The violence throughout the movie definitely deserves the PG-13 rating and is far too brutal for anyone younger. However, young teenagers will be immensely satisfied by the fun action. Even I, have to give respect for the effects being shown in daylight. Far too often in other movies, darkness is used to conceal errors in rendering or a lack of budget. The budget is absolutely shown on the screen.
Kong: Skull Island is disappointing in relation to the story happening outside the titular character. Kong’s size and effects are impressive, but the human element feels lazy. Overall, Kong is an average movie with a few great action scenes. He doesn’t quite deserve the King title yet. So, Prince Kong will be great for a rental. C+