Movie Review: ‘Kong: Skull Island’


Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C Reilly

Plot: A group of scientists, soldiers and adventures set out to explore the previously undiscovered Skull Island. Upon their arrival they get attacked by a giant ape and get stranded and forced to survive.

Review: Following on from Godzilla we have another attempt to replicate the Marvel Expanded Universe business model by bringing in King Kong. Last decade Peter Jackson took a crack at remaking the classic and it was ultimately divisive. What it did do well was create a realistic Kong, spending countless days and hours making him look and move like a real gorilla, they made him a herbivore and researched gorilla behaviour. 

This movie…has not done that.

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Kong is very much based on the classic design of 1933, flaws and all. He stands like a human and eats people and other creatures. They’re not making a realistic movie, they’re making a bonkers adventure film. As such the script and characters are easily the least developed part of this movie. The characters are so paper thin that it’s a wonder they don’t dissolve when they hit the water. Any motivation for their actions are beyond contrived. Everyone has one defining feature – photographer, adventurer, obsessed commander, wild card, etc. They’ve tried to replicate the ensemble dynamic of Aliens without the interesting characters.

But…we’d be lying if we didn’t say we had fun. The director has made this a mash-up of influences, lifting ideas from films as diverse as Platoon and The Host. It’s brightly coloured and packed with creative monsters who exist to eat the humans and beat the snot out of each other. Different characters have their own reasons for heading to the island but when Kong swats all their helicopters out of the air it’s a fight for survival with one new terror after the other. The biggest threat are the ‘skull crawlers’, nasty lizard beats who swarm out of the ground and give Kong some competition. There’s rarely a dull moment as we go from one action sequence to another with something new to see each time.

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There’s some serious nonsense happening throughout. In one scene Kong grapples with a giant squid monster in a lake so…it’s a fresh water Kraken? Some overblown and experimental shots like the opening shot of a man falling out of the sun stick out like an awkward sore thumb. Towards the end they try to cast Kong as a misunderstood creature and a character sacrifices himself to save his friends but the script really doesn’t feel like they earned these moments of emotional connection.
On the other hand it has John C. Reilly fighting pterodactyls with a samurai sword.

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It puts in mind of the weaker Indiana Jones movies, like Temple of Doom. Look closely and you’ll see the cracks. Sit back, relax and it’s a fun ride.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN

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