As a result of Kong: Skull Island, I think the best way to express how I felt having come out was that I wanted to give Gareth Edwards’s take on Godzilla more credit. While I already did walk out of the theater watching Godzilla with a rather disappointed look on my face, it seemed that Edwards had a better understanding of how to raise the stakes inside of a monster movie compared to Jordan Vogt-Roberts, another independent filmmaker who came up on Legendary Pictures’s end to expand their MonsterVerse. The idea already should have sounded exciting but to my surprise (and eventual disappointment), the final results of Kong: Skull Island were merely disposable as opposed to fun.
There seems to be a plan set-up with Legendary’s MonsterVerse at the moment with an independent filmmaker now being the one to go behind a big-budgeted monster movie, for we already started with an inexperienced but competent Gareth Edwards who was fresh of Monsters to go behind Godzilla. The next step was now to bring Jordan Vogt-Roberts who was responsible for the underwhelming coming-of-age comedy-drama The Kings of Summer, but I won’t lie when I say I like seeing a director branch out on that count. It could only have been safe to admit that while Vogt-Roberts seems competent enough in creating a visual style that suits the nature of a King Kong film, so much of it left me to think how much I would rather have watched either Peter Jackson’s King Kong or Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla once again because it still suffered from many similar issues that the latter faced, albeit worse.
One of the worst offenders from Godzilla was that the human characters themselves felt so much more like flat caricatures rather than people whom we can latch onto. Unfortunately it seems to have been the case in Kong: Skull Island once again with the notable exception of John C. Reilly. It only caught me how badly one would waste Samuel L. Jackson or John Goodman because Jackson’s lines feel much more like bits of humour an MCU film can throw in from his character’s descent (which never rang true) and Goodman’s place only offers what one would expect to find in a trailer. In short, many of the most talented actors feel like one-note cutouts that in turn rely upon the charisma of who’s playing them, with Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston falling victim to this too. It’s expected for Reilly to be good from the whole bunch given his character’s backstory and even he carries a sense of authenticity in the bits of humour he offers on the film’s behalf, and then we have others like Corey Hawkins and Tian Jing who feel present only to further a franchise.
Visually, there are many things that Kong: Skull Island presents that can in turn be found pleasing to the eye whether it ranged from the cinematography from Zack Snyder’s regular collaborator Larry Fong, but it seems as if this is where the film takes more time to revel rather than creating figures whom we could have easily latched ourselves onto. It’s disappointing enough just thinking about how something could look so beautiful but at the same time feel so dull, but after the film goes ahead and comes an action scene with the monsters as they fight with the almighty king, it only gets worse. The introduction of Kong was already a promising note, but as soon as the film goes down to exploring the world of Skull Island and shows a spark of creativity from there, where disappointment arises is in how the action sequences end up lasting far too long for their own good and dull down the film even more.
Most of the blame can go towards the script, which brings down the talent of Dan Gilroy as shown from Nightcrawler together with that of Max Borenstein from Godzilla and Derek Connolly of Jurassic World. There are moments of wise-cracking humour that make for the overtly serious tone which Gareth Edwards had taken when he handled Godzilla and the occasionally cheesy one-liner, but that isn’t to say that in Kong: Skull Island all it makes instead is a rather awkward experience because of how unfitting it feels from time to time. Instead of creating a sense of gripping characterization or suspense what comes out is a piece that seems more focused on reveling within the time period ranging from the soundtrack or the set pieces without ever feeling of the time. But it was only fitting the film would throw in a metaphor for the Vietnam War and its damage a la Apocalypse Now and an eventual Cannibal Holocaust reference in order to set the mood and to Vogt-Roberts’s credit, they are used wisely – if just handled rather improperly.
Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla only set a worrying start for Legendary’s MonsterVerse. Godzilla was a well-made if disappointing blockbuster about the iconic Toho monster, but now with Kong: Skull Island and its attempt at rebooting a franchise while starting up another one, it’s only fitting that I give the buildup from Godzilla more credit because at least it set the stakes high enough on that count while suffering the excessive length of the buildup together with bad characterization. Kong: Skull Island on the other hand seems as if it has no idea when to stop jumping at the viewer, and from there I only kept on thinking how much I would rather have sat through Peter Jackson’s vision for as overlong as that one may have been.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Screenplay by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, from King Kong by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace
Produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Alex Garcia
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 118 minutes