Kong: Skull Island Review: A Roaring Crowd-Pleaser
I have an unapologetic love for the “Monster Movie” genre. From the 1954 Godzilla to present day Pacific Rim, I just can’t help but adore an oversized creature crushing its enemies in grand fashion. Income Kong: Skull Island, a modern day throwback to monster movies at its prime, serving more as an homage than a contemporary blockbuster, which is one of the film’s greatest strengths.
Kong: Skull Island takes place in 1973, a secretive organization known as Monarch, lead by Bill Randa (John Goodman) finds an island that is shrouded in mystery and identified as the origin of new species. Randa and his associate, Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) recruit an expert tracker, Conrad, (Tom Hiddleston) an anti-war photographer, Mason (Brie Larson) and a military team a day away from returning home, lead by the war-hungry Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson).
The resulting expedition to the island reveals that a giant monstrous ape named Kong is at the center of a battle for dominion over the island, against the apex predators, nicknamed the “Skull Crawlers,” responsible for wiping out his kind. As most of the expedition crew plans to fight for survival on the hostile island, some of them begin to see that Kong is worth saving.
If you were expecting depth character moments, emotional weight and an engaging story, then Kong: Skull Island isn’t the flick for you. However, if you want a fun, throwback to the B-movies of the 50s-70s that include King Kong and other unique monsters, you’ll find the same enjoyment and giddiness I did. This is what I call managing expectations. How many summer blockbusters that aren’t already a pre-established property have memorable characters? Now, how many of those characters do you remember for being wooden, annoying, and distracting?
My point exactly.
Skull Island knows exactly what type of film it wants to be, and never loses steam or tries to be something more than what it is. The movie is riddled with cliches; I mean every single one you can think of is present within the film. From dialogue that has no substance or meaning behind it, (Hiddleston’s Conrad saying “We’re gonna save Kong.”) or imagery of explosions as seen through aviator sunglasses on a smiling military helicopter pilot. Yeah, that’s all there. But you know what, I didn’t care. I didn’t care because I had such a fun time uncovering new monsters hidden in Skull Island with wonderfully computer generated battles that are simply pure popcorn fluff.
If any characters do stand out, it’s without question John C. Riley’s seasoned Hank Marlow, and Jacksons Colonel Packard. Riley not only serves as the comedic relief but a character that is likable and has a backstory you want to see pan out to a happy ending. Riley is charming and empathetic with the limited character moments the script offers him. Jackson is the polar opposite. He lives for war, he isn’t happy unless engaging in war and is so set in his ways that he just wants to “blow that monkey up,” with all logic aside.
It’s safe to say that the groups first encounter with Kong is the best sequence in Skull Island. As the team navigates through a treacherous storm, they are welcomed by the king himself, and boy does it not disappoint. The set piece is both parts exciting and unpredictable. The full shots of Kong taking down these helicopters are very well directed. A scene in particular where it is shown from the inside of a crashing helicopter point of view is just astonishing.
Don’t let my praises about Kong destroying objects and creatures alike sway you to think this is a “great film.” Lots of likable, well-respected actors die in the blink of an eye, with absolutely no emotional response other than “so that just happened.” Some of the set pieces feel like they were thrown into the script for no reason at all, including an eye-rolling and ultimately hilarious scene in which Tom Hiddleston uses a sword and a gas mask. You’ll know once you see it.
Despite Kong: Skull Island having no substance or emotional weight to it, I found myself smiling through its brisk runtime. Even if the smiles weren’t intentional.
Kong: Skull Island opens on March 10th 2017