I feel I should say before writing this review that I am not a movie snob. I can enjoy a stupid monster movie just as much as the next girl. In fact, I recently defended The Great Wall as just that kind of film. However, the thing about The Great Wall is it was visually inventive and consistent, which kept me entertained throughout. I went into Kong Skull Island expecting a similar experience and left feeling disappointed. Kong Skull Island has positives but in the end I don’t think it is successful.
This version of Kong is set in the 1970s which was pretty creative, but like everything these days it is meant to fit into a cinematic universe with Godzilla and other famous monsters.
The conceit is the Vietnam War is ending and John Goodman’s character named Bill gathers a group of soldiers, trackers, scientists and a photographer to explore Skull Island. Once they arrive they face the giant ape King Kong and a variety of other creatures as well as meet a man marooned there in 1944 played by John C Reily.
The special effects with Kong are first-rate and very entertaining. The problem is these special effects are not consistent throughout the movie. The 1933 film, hokey as it may now seem, had a consistent look to all the creature designs. In this film there are these lizard creatures that Kong fights which I thought looked really bad. They seemed like something out of a movie from the early 2000s not 2017. This was a real problem because there are multiple scenes with just the lizards including one with some of the most ridiculous slow motion I’ve seen in a long time.
The writing was also pretty inconsistent. Again, I don’t expect great writing in a film like this but it needs to be consistent. Many of the characters felt like they were in different movies, seeing different realities. Tom Hiddleston is bland as the tracker who one moment leaves a boat and yet needs his super duper tracking skills to find the river? Brie Larson is there as a photographer but her relationship with Kong feels so tagged on and underdeveloped. In the 1933 version Ann Darrow and Kong have a relationship that develops over time leading to Kong being encaged and put on display. It makes sense he would feel for her. Not here. The real victim to underwritten characters is Samuel L Jackson’s Lieutenant Packard. He basically acts like an insane man from another movie. His actions make no sense for an army man (or sane human for that matter) and all of the sudden the movie becomes a revenge piece that doesn’t work at all. They even repeat his iconic line from Jurassic Park, which I thought was a very odd choice. A character I did like was John C. Reily’s marooned 1944’s soldier. He was consistently written throughout the film. His choices made sense and he was entertaining in the way you want a B movie performance to be. Along with Kong, he was my favorite thing in the movie.
Even Kong is underwritten in this film. In the 1933 film you see him grow as a character. He has emotion and heart as he is hunted and then chained to show off to the crowd. Here they try to get some of that emotion but it doesn’t work and his choices towards the end don’t make any sense. It became a bunch of lizard battles when what I wanted was a Kong movie.
The soundtrack was really good! Full of 70s hits, so there’s that but I was disappointed by Kong Skull Island. There are moments of fun but it just wasn’t consistent enough for me to endorse.
Overall Grade- C-