For the fourth time in the history of American filmmaking, one of the all time great movie monsters bows into theaters to pound his chest, roar and reign supreme over an island not meant for man to tread. It’s director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ turn to give life to a beast some have dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World in Kong: Skull Island.
Fair warning: the plot for the film will be familiar if one is familiar with the mythos of Kong from the past. In in the early 1970s, a scientific expedition to an uncharted island in the South Pacific goes horribly awry, when a team led by Colonel Preston Packard, decommissioned SAS Captain James Conrad and researcher Bill Randa run afoul of Kong, the mammoth ape protector of Skull Island. Their first encounter with the beast results in seven soldiers dead and the research team separated and every single soul on the island is in grave peril, but not from Kong; the truth is that Kong is the island’s deterrent to creatures far more frightening.
I won’t go out of my way to tell you that Kong: Skull Island is a blockbuster worthy of a king or it should be rightfully crowned. I found the picture rather tame with a few original twists but I suppose I was just unsatisfied with the final result.
If Kong: Skull Island had any selling points, it would be that I thought Vogt-Roberts and the writing team of Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connelly did a nice job in adhering to Kong’s origins and island life/persona: a fearsome protector to those in need, always ready to aid a damsel, worshipped as a god on Skull Island. I felt that they recognized the scope and grandeur of the title character and did what they could to make him as big as possible but the film itself just couldn’t measure up to the enormity of Kong’s reputation. Seriously, take the giant ape out of the picture and what are you left with?
For starters you have a movie that is weighed down to the anchored to the homages paid to Apocalypse Now, which is excessive to the point of over-the-top. This movie could have occurred in any time period so, why at the end of the Vietnam War?
You also have a movie that simply wastes a lot of star power. Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Tian Jing, Thomas Mann, Will Britain, Richard Jenkins; there are many good actors in this movie and this cast tries to deliver good performances where they can but like Godzilla, they’re not why audiences show up! Whatever contributions they do make, go to waste because the material they are working with is shallow and the visual effects steals the show.
Larry Fong’s cinematography aims to be strong but reeks of inconsistency and the editing Richard Pearson follows suit, which is unfortunate. Stefan DeChant’s production design is striking, the art direction is commendable, the set decoration by Cynthia La Jeunesse is fine, Mary E. Vogt’s costumes aimed for authenticity; technically there was a lot to respect with this film and what did you didn’t like, you forgot.
Maybe I subconsciously compared Kong: Skull Island to its 2005 predecessor by Peter Jackson, even though I didn’t want to, but ultimately I couldn’t help but notice that Jackson’s Kong had the girth and dimensions to bring Kong to its Kingly status while this film felt cartoonish. Kong: Skull Island is fun, in it’s own way, but lacking.