Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Kong: Skull Island is the reboot film for the King Kong character set in Legendary’s MonsterVerse. The film is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and is set in the 1970s at the end of the Vietnam War as a group of scientists and an organization called MONARCH are given a military escort to travel to and study a previously undiscovered island in the South Pacific. The film stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Toby Kebbell, Thomas Mann, Shea Whigham, and Tian Jing.

Leaving the theater after seeing Kong: Skull Island I couldn’t speak much to its story depth but I could say I had a good time. With additional time to think and absorb the film, my conclusions about it at the time have lasted and I would say that Kong: Skull Island is a fun romp and definitely something worth checking out.

What worked most effectively in Kong: Skull Island was the film’s ability to keep me adequately engaged throughout while delivering extremely high quality action sequences. The film managed solid pacing with enough elements that I cared about as an audience member to capture me during the downtime between what people most want to see in a film about King Kong. With respect to what we want to see (great action), Kong: Skull Island delivers in spades. There are plenty of interesting action sequences throughout the film and, unlike its MonsterVerse predecessor Godzilla (2014), we get a lot of Kong himself in the film. This kinetic pacing coupled with great action really made this an enjoyable watch.

Further, this film is stunning to look at. Accomplished cinematographer Larry Fong was the director of photography for this film and it showed. Much like what Seamus McGarvey did on Godzilla, Fong brings a level of sophisticated cinematography that makes this film incredibly striking to watch. The film is very much inspired, thematically, narratively, and visually, by the Francis Ford Coppola classic Apocalypse Now and Fong brings that influence into the work he does on the piece with expert precision. This felt very much in the vein of Apocalypse Now in its look which is one of the highest compliments I can award any film as that was one of the best shot films of all time.

The final positive of the film came from the performances. Despite the characters being largely underwritten, the performers in this piece make you appreciate and invest in them more than you might otherwise. Brie Larson, Tom Hiddlseton, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman, in particular, exemplify this by having so much personality that you can’t help but connect to whatever it is their character is doing. None of them have a lot to do in the film (although Jackson does have an interestingly drawn character) but they all manage to keep you in the pocket and ready for whatever the film will throw at you next.

Kong: Skull Island is neither a perfect, nor even great film, however. As I eluded to above, the characters in this film don’t have a lot to do. They are all written effectively enough get you moving through the story but not so effectively that absent the performers personalities you would connect with them. They are sort of meat sacks meant to propel the audience through the story for the most part. This wouldn’t be ideal in most films, especially character driven dramas, but Kong: Skull Island hardly pretends to be that (with the possible exception of Jackson’s character). It is a classic monster film at heart and the characters do suffer to a marked extend as a result.

Further, this film is unbelievably cheesy. Unlike Godzilla which would lean into its cheese in moments but made attempts to otherwise feel real, Kong: Skull Island throws real out the window. The dialogue in this film is beyond ridiculous and the set up for situations similarly so.  There were many moments in the film I couldn’t help myself from laughing at even though they weren’t intended as a joke. They were so divorced from reality in a way that was funny, however. This level of cheese is something most films don’t get away with and it certainly keeps Kong: Skull Island from being a better film than it is.

Finally, I was really not a fan of what John C. Reilly did and the Toby Kebbell should not have been in this film. John C. Reilly is an accomplished and talented performer, however, here he is reduced in some ways to the comedic relief. It all makes sense with his character, mind you, but it still felt frequently jarring to my viewing detriment. He is also a strong focal point in the movie and when I should have felt some emotional beats I didn’t because of the silliness of his character. With respect to Kebbell, as usual he isn’t bad but isn’t given anything to do. He seems at first like a character who would have more depth than some of his comrades but winds up not being all that interesting on the whole (and no, that’s not a spoiler, he’s just not interesting).

Overall I think that Kong: Skull Island did everything I needed it to do to be effective. I just don’t think it went above and beyond in any way and wound up being extremely average as a film. I had an extremely great time in the theater though and walked out smiling knowing that I had two hours of mostly enjoyment even if said enjoyment wasn’t life changing. Word to the wise, relax and grab some popcorn and enjoy the ride. Oh, and be sure to stay for the post-credit scene. It was my favorite in the film and absolutely worth seeing!

Ryan’s Score: 7/10

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