Review: The Beast is Bored in Retro ‘Kong: Skull Island’

"Kong: Skull Island" (2017) - Movie Review

‘Kong: Skull Island’ is a Second Dud for WB MonsterVerse

This past month has seen its fair share of unnecessary, yet remarkable remakes such as Beauty and the Beast and Power Rangers. Somewhere in the mix of this extremely busy season, Warner Bros. decided to move forward with its very own cinematic universe filled to the brim with familiar monsters. That decision brings forth the return of a certain “Eighth Wonder of the World” in Kong: Skull Island.

Hot off the heels of the Vietnam War, Kong: Skull Island follows the secret organization, Monarch (last seen in 2014’s Godzilla) on a expedition to the South Pacific. While much of the planet has been documented, there’s one island that’s always been uncharted – Skull Island. Surrounded by tumultuous weather, it’s been often compared to the Bermuda Triangle. That doesn’t halt Bill Randa (John Goodman) and the his Monarch team from uncovering the ancient, monstrous mysterious on that island. We know that one of them’s a big, damn ape named Kong.

To get to the elusive island, the Monarch squad is going to need some help. Enter Captain Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a renown tracker, Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a gung-ho military type and Mason (Brie Larson), an award-winning photojournalist out to gain more notoriety. Like any previous Kong film, the expedition on the island isn’t going to run smoothly despite the countless precautions. Mistake number one – the squad drop bombs on Kong’s home turf (which obviously angers the beast).

Kong: Skull Island has the full intention of being a vintage monster movie rather a direct homage to 1933 masterpiece. This clearly isn’t the 2005 Peter Jackson approach, which is epic and mesmerizing in its own right. Instead, Kong: Skull Island paves it own path in interpreting the legendary ape. While the backdrop and militaristic themes of Vietnam are to be commended, there’s very little going beyond that. Though throwbacks to Apocalypse Now and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” are more than welcome, it’s simply a tease of the film’s potential.

SEE ALSO: Kong: Skull Island Review: A Roaring Crowd-Pleaser

Yes, Kong: Skull Island has zero problems checking off a laundry list of big, dumb popcorn movie moments. Sadly, it quickly transforms as the second dud in Warner Bros.’ MonsterVerse. Like 2014’s Godzilla, we’re watching a brilliant put together ensemble stripped of any personality or dynamic. John Goodman was golden last year in 10 Cloverfield Lane and here he’s given next to nothing to work with. Marvel fans speak head-over-heels about Tom Hiddleston’s charisma in The Avengers. Yet there’s no time for him to shine in Skull Island. Samuel L. Jackson gets to play Samuel L. Jackson. So props to him.

The same exact mistakes are being repeated with Godzilla. Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) helms the project and like Gareth Edwards directing Godzilla and Colin Trevorrow with Jurassic World, we have another indie director struggling to make the transition to art-house to major blockbuster. There’s no real sense of direction with this film with its tedious showdowns both on the human and beast fronts. At times, Skull Island seems more of a chore to push through than Peter Jackson’s three-hour epic.

The only thing learned from Godzilla is giving audiences more time with the titular monster. Remember the 11 “generous” minutes of a certain kaiju? Skull Island fortunately doesn’t minimize the screen presence of Kong. And when he’s on-screen, the giant ape’s treated more as an angry protector. With threats coming from Monarch and others coming underground, it’s understandable why he’s someone you don’t want to mess around with. Visually, this iteration of Kong is serviceable, but after seeing Andy Serkis’ performance over a decade ago, it’s a soulless representation of the character.

Kong: Skull Island gambles and loses its opportunity to breathe new life into a franchise dating back even before Gone with the Wind. Cinematically underwhelming, there’s very little driving interest in the inevitable Godzilla vs. Kong crossover three years down the road.

Written by
Matt Marshall has been reviewing films since 2003, starting with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." He specializes in home media, including 4K UHD, Blu-ray as well as box office analysis. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.

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