Kong: Skull Island is far from perfect as it suffers from a few pacing issues and is overall devoid of any deeper meaning, but has plenty of giant monsters fighting a giant ape to make up for it.
When Legendary announced that they were not only making another King Kong movie but that it will take place in the same universe as Godzilla from 2014, the reactions were mixed. There were some people that loved the idea while others were not as happy since they didn’t like that version of Godzilla very much. The second part in this universe has arrived in the form of Kong: Skull Island as an almost original story for how humans first come across Kong in the 1970’s. It features a fantastic cast of huge names such as future Captain Marvel and Oscar winner Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John C Reilly, Samuel L Jackson and John Goodman just to name a few. It has top notch special effects that make Kong look as real as he ever has (and more giant) and weird monsters to make any kaiju fan happy. It captures the aesthetic of the 1970’s perfectly and has a great soundtrack. Unfortunately, the movie itself just isn’t as great as it could be.
As previously stated all of the pieces are there for this to be a great film. The pieces even fit together well but the final picture just isn’t great. There are some strange structural issues where the first half of the movie feels much more tense and fun to watch than the latter half. The final fight between Kong and the giant lizard isn’t so much bad as it is anti-climatic. For a movie that has a very high body count it very much felt like everyone who was going to die has died by that point so there wasn’t any sense of danger. There is also the fact that we are watching (at one point) three different groups of people. There are very few distinguished characters, so until you see someone you recognize you’re unsure what group you’re following at first. There aren’t that many characters you can relate to or want to care about, and almost everyone just becomes another body for the island to claim, sometimes rather brutally for a PG-13. While the movie does capture the feeling of how the world and soldiers felt mere days after Vietnam ends, it feels like the movie was trying to make some sort of point that never really forms. Of course that is not to say everything needs to have deeper meaning, but it appears Kong: Skull Island might have had something to say but doesn’t.
That being said Kong: Skull Island is far from bad. The cast are all fantastic even if they aren’t playing characters as much as walking corpses. John C Reilly changes the entire tone of the movie the moment he shows up, and the script masterfully knows how to balance humor in the face of unbelievable scenarios. The various giant monsters and creatures that we see are all well designed and Kong himself is a marvel of special effects, especially the moments when he is smashing giant monsters or punching helicopters out of the sky. The fact that this movie was shot in Vietnam really helps capture the atmosphere of movies like Apocalypse Now with a little bit of Tropic Thunder. While these monsters are out of this world, the fact that very little of this appears to have been shot in a studio gives everything a very grounded feel.
Kong: Skull Island isn’t going to change the life of anyone who isn’t already invested in this character, but longtime fans of Kong will find a lot to love here. As for everyone else this is a well made, well acted but flawed picture to bring King Kong to a new generation and sets up for more movies to come.
Also, stay through the credits.
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