Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Review

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whugham, Thomas Mann

The Overview
A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden. (Source: IMDb)

The Good
Making no secrets about my feelings towards Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005), and in particular the main criticism, which is that it took A LITERAL AGE for there to be even a glimpse of the eponymous ape, I went into this latest iteration with slight trepidation. The fact that the trailer gave us plenty of monkeying around, meant that the big (and I do mean “big” reveal) happened long before the movie even started. Whilst slightly disappointed that the reveal happened in the trailers, I was still delighted to find that the movie barely waits five minutes before we first see the Eighth Wonder of the World, and a mere fifteen or so minutes until we see him in all his glory. And boy is he glorious!

This is Kong’s movie after all, and he absolutely steals the show in every possible way. Whenever he is on screen, he elevates the film to skyscraper sized heights, and this film really showcases the incredible leaps in technology which make this giant so compelling and so ground-breaking. This is a Kong like you have never seen before; there’d be no hanging off a building for this primate, he is the building! Overall the ape and creature effects are amazing, and for all their fantastical and mythological qualities, they remain entirely convincing and flawless.

The marketing materials for Skull Island are among some of the best seen recently, particularly for a blockbuster movie, and every new poster reveal had me hankering for a copy to hang on my wall! This is thankfully still reflected in the film itself, and the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. The sunset scenes are picture perfect, the fire effects explosive and vivid, the mysterious murky depths of the island shrouded in fog, and some carefully selected slow-motion shots, all come together to stunning effect. This is a film which wears its influences very clearly, and the cues from Apocalypse Now are well utilised. Skull Island might be a monster movie, but it is also one which takes its visual cues from war movies, and this combination works surprisingly well.   

On the human side of things, John C. Reilly was the stand-out for me, which considering I had concerns about the comedy fitting in with the rest of the story-line, was a pleasant surprise indeed. Tom Hiddleston makes a convincing hero, Brie Larson is charming as ever, and together they actually make for a great pairing, but the human side is sadly what lets this film down a little. 

The Bad
Whilst all of the scenes involving the great ape are a joy to behold, and the human characters might be trying their best, they have to contend with terrible dialogue and non-existent character development which hampers their chances slightly. There’s a lot of characters to try and care about here, and whilst Peter Jackson’s King Kong spent far too long with its human characters, Skull Island perhaps doesn’t spend enough time developing them sufficiently in order for us to care. There’s a happy medium in there somewhere, I’m sure of it! 

Acting heavyweight John Goodman is severely underused, even stranger considering his character is the one that brings all the characters together on the island in the first place. The characters are all pretty indispensable, and given so little in terms of development that the majority of them serve as nothing more than “Kong-fodder”; which is pretty great to watch admittedly! 

The Verdict
I saw this movie and you should too. The best way to describe this film is “flawed but fun”; when you’re here for the monster movie it is an unstoppable behemoth, but when in all other aspects it falls a little flat. There is in many ways a hint that this film is really leading up to something much bigger, and the much talked about showdown between Kong and Godzilla. If this monster clash manages to utilise the best elements of Skull Island, then it should be quite the spectacle, and when these two titans finally do battle, well you’re gonna need a bigger screen! 

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