Movie Review: ‘Kong Skull Island’ (Second Opinion)
Plot: At the end of the Vietnam War, Monarch employee Bill Randa (John Goodman) and geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), convince the US government to fund an expedition to a remote island in the South Pacific. There they hope to find evidence that monsters exist. Bitter Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) leads the military contingent of the expedition, while infamous tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) also aid in the journey. Once the group arrives on Skull Island they find themselves completely out of their element and set upon by giant spiders, underground lizards, and the King of the island; the ape known as Kong.
Review: Ridiculous to the point of absurdity, Kong Skull Island is a pure popcorn movie of the best sort. A check your brain at the door, forget about logic adventure flick that’s filled with plenty of action, CGI rendered monsters, one-liners, and an attractive cast. Oh and also Samuel L. Jackson saying, “Bitch please!”
The second film in Warner Bros. giant monster expanded universe, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’* (The Kings of Summer) film lacks the nuance and drama of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, substituting spectacle for substance. I don’t say that necessarily as a criticism, but with these types of films you know exactly what you’re getting into. Don’t expect any earth shattering realizations about life after walking out of Kong Skull Island. Not that many of you were probably planning to anyway.
What Kong does improve upon from Godzilla is that the character is front and center. As soon as our illustrious group arrives at the island, Kong shows up almost immediately and remains a visible presence throughout, unlike his giant lizard counterpart. Kong definitely has much more personality than we’ve seen on the screen before. He’s a protective creature that knows he’s the last of his kind. There’s compassion there and Kong doesn’t exercise violent acts unless forced to. All he wants to do is be left alone.
But doggone it, those pesky Americans and employees of Monarch just can’t leave well enough alone. Once the group gets to Skull Island they do what anyone usually does upon landing on a mysterious, uncharted place: they start dropping bombs. (Hey I never said these guys were smart.) As you might imagine this upsets the delicate ecosystem of the island and pisses off Kong quite a bit. Before long multiple helicopters are destroyed, the team is split up, and it’s a race to see who can get to the north end of the island by the time the rescue boat shows up.
If you’re looking for quality acting, this ain’t you’re movie. Tom Hiddleston seems to be sleepwalking through his role, while John Goodman is completely miscast in the bureaucrat part who seeks monsters because of a troubled past. Corey Hawkins gives it his all as geologist Houston Brooks. He’s way in over his head and terrified, but as you might expect Brooks find the courage he didn’t know was inside of him at the end. Brie Larson fares the best as the upstart photojournalist Mason. She brings a fierceness and tenacity to her character that’s much welcome, although her character is mostly pat and one-dimensional. Samuel L. Jackson is at his Samuel L. Jackson-iest here as Packard, shouting his way throughout the film. This is a role he could do in his sleep. All I kept thinking about every time he talked was this:
The lack of character depth and overused plot is probably due to not one, not two, but THREE (Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly) screenwriters. For those of you who don’t know this is almost always a strong indicator of a poorly written script. In fact the only character the trio cared to give any attention to was John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow, a WWII lieutenant, who’s been stuck on Skull Island for almost thirty years. Reilly brings equal parts humor and warmth to Marlow, even if the size of his beard seems to shift mysteriously in size from scene to scene. He is one of the few people you actually root for in the film. (A post credits scene involving Marlow while trite, manages to pull at the heart-strings.)
Despite its myriad of flaws, Kong Skull Island possesses a few redeeming qualities. Vogt-Roberts establishes an adrenaline rush and sense of peril that these types of films strive for. Larry Fong’s cinematography goes for an Apocalypse Now vibe that occasionally succeeds. Henry Jackman contributes a strong if not overly memorable score. And the visuals are extremely impressive throughout, especially Kong. Clocking in at just under two hours, Kong Skull Island also doesn’t overstay its welcome like Peter Jackson’s bloated King Kong.
But who really cares about that stuff right? Most people are going to watch this movie because they want to see Kong go apeshit (pun intended) on some “Skullcrawlers” and throat punch a helicopter or nine. Kong Skull Island isn’t pretentious and doesn’t pretend to be more than what it is. It’s a straight forward, action adventure movie, that if you’re looking to kill two hours on a Sunday afternoon will do just fine.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
My rating: 6/10
*Dude check out this guy’s epic beard. King Kong could live in this beard: