Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Larry Fong
WRITERS: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly
MUSIC: Henry Jackman
“Kong: Skull Island” is the second film in Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse, a series that started with 2014’s “Godzilla”. Like its predecessor, unfortunately, “Kong” is filled with more disappointment than thrills. The movie may boast an impressive cast and good special-effects filled action, but that’s just not enough to get over its bland script.
The movie is set in 1973 and a group of scientist have found an uncharted island. In order to get through the unusual storm that surrounds the island, the scientist bring along an elite helicopter unit, led by Samuel L. Jackson. Not long after they reach the island, they set off seismic charges, which in turn grabs the attention of Kong, a massive gorilla that protects the island.
After this, there are two teams that the film follows. One is led by Jackson’s Packard, who is now playing Captain Ahab and Kong is his Mobey Dick. His men are following him, but the question quickly becomes will they continue to follow him down is mad path.
The other group of survivors is primarily led by a former British Special Air Service Captain named Conrad (Tom Middleston). His group consists of the scientists on the job and a very headstrong photojournalist named Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). They simply want to find a way off the island and they soon find help from Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), an eccentric man who was lost on the island for 28 years since his plane went down during WWII.
Reilly’s Hank is also the only real character that I give a damn about. Every other actor is playing a character that is just your usual archetypes. Hiddleston is the handsome lead character and Larson is your usual damsel-in-distress. Most of Jackson’s military characters is just fodder for Kong to throw around like playthings.
Also, I really didn’t feel the need for Jackson’s character at all. His obsession is supposed to be one the more dramatic elements of the movie, but I wasn’t feeling any of it. Using “Moby Dick” as an inspiration is not only cliche at this point, it’s just lazy writing.
The movie could have been an interesting chase movie about this group needing to get off the island. Instead, there are several moments where this movie just drags on and on. I get that some character development needs to happen, but these slow scenes are unconvincing and they also feel forced.
Finally, another problem comes from Skull Island itself. It has a lot of other creatures beyond Kong, but they are all uninspired. One is an over-sized wildebeest and the other a giant spider. There is no design that went into any of this movie it would seem.
Now, the movie is not all that bad. As I alluded to earlier in the review, the action that does occur was fun to watch. There is a scene where Kong is simply swatting away at the helicopters and several moments where Kong is fighting something else. It was during these moments that I was the most excited. In fact, it seemed like Legendary’s biggest goal was to show off Kong.
In “Godzilla”, the character was barely shown at all until the ending. Here, they put Kong front and center. I just wish I could say that I enjoyed the rest of the picture beyond Kong. An impressive cast can’t save the weak script that has little to no emotion running through it.