Kong: Skull Island – Spectacle Over Story

Before watching this, it’s hard not to think about the last Kong film which was released back in 2005. While both films obviously deal with Kong, this one takes place much later and is meant to set up a new film series so take it as it is …

Synopsis: A secret government organization mounts an expedition to Skull Island, an uncharted territory in the Pacific. Led by an explorer and a lieutenant colonel, the group recruit a disillusioned soldier and a photojournalist to investigate the island’s peculiar seismic activity. But once there, they discover that Skull Island is home to a gigantic ape called King Kong, and find themselves caught up in an ongoing war between the beast and the area’s indigenous predators. (Rovi)

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brie Larson

Writer: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 119mins

Trailer: 

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Going back to the comparison to the last Kong film, this most recent film is considerably shorter, clocking in at just under 2 hours, compared to over 3 for King Kong. Because of this, Kong: Skull Island does not waste any time getting into the story. In some cases that could be good but that wasn’t necessarily the case here. When compared to the previous film, King Kong served as a modern retelling of a familiar story with familiar characters but in creating a new franchise, it introduces new characters with varying results.

The main problem with the film is that it introduces its characters much too quickly and did not give them nearly enough character development to ever develop an emotional connection to them. It chose to introduce them in one of those “setting up the team” montages before going straight into the main story. This problem did not better as the film went on. The main thing going against the film was that it had way too many characters to follow and along with the short running time, there wasn’t much of a chance.

The story was about an explorer named Bill Randa (John Goodman) along with an army lieutenant named Preston Packard (Jackson), a former soldier now tracker named James Conrad (Hiddleston), and a photographer named Mason Weaver (Larson) (and countless others) who head to a mysterious, uncharted island to investigate the island’s seismic activity. Or at least that’s what it seemed until Kong (Kebbell) showed up to complicate things.

Randa, working for an organization known as Monarch (the same from 2014’s Godzilla), had a past history with Kong which explained his motivation in what was actually going back to the island. This succeeded in making the connection between this film and the most recent Godzilla film but didn’t explore it in great detail. We didn’t learn much about Conrad or Weaver other than Conrad was a disgruntled soldier and Weaver was anti-war. The closest developed character was Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) who was basically the bearded guy who was on the island for a long time.

Since the cast was so large, no one really stood out meaning the film lacked any lead. This made things had to follow as the story would move in different direction and it was a little too unclear in regards to where things were going. Each character had their own motivations but they just lacked context. Kong was present, the film is called Kong: Skull Island, but it felt like the film didn’t focus enough on Kong as he was mostly in the background. It became more about escaping the island than about Kong (although this won’t be the end of him).

The special effects in creating Kong and the world of Skull Island were very well done. The world was full of color and had a sense of scope. The cinematography was excellent and helped to bring the world to life. The film had some amazing shots of the landscape and of the Kong fight scenes with the various other creatures. Kong proved to be a rather large presence and was depicted with a great degree of detail from up close and from further away. The CGI and motion capture work to bring Kong to life were great as he was depicted with a considerable amount of detail from far away and even more up close. The various other creatures suffered from obvious CGI but were also good for the most part.

The acting was okay for the most part. The script treated the cast pretty evenly so no one had the chance to stand out. Some of the dialogue was on the cheesy side but that kind of went along with the period. Out of all the performances, the most memorable ones would probably be Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly. Jackson’s Packard wasn’t anyone special as he was the same character he’s played several other times but as he often does, he finds a way to still be somewhat memorable. Reilly was the most developed character which made him the most likable. He didn’t come until later but he brought a lighter side to the film and he had many funny lines.

Overall, this was still a good monster film with the some great special effects but perhaps tried to do too much, lacking an engaging story or developed characters.

Score: 7.5/10

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