Guest Post by Dylan O’Connell
The developing Legendary Pictures MonsterVerse franchise is grandiose evidence that Hollywood desires to make SyFy channel monster movies. Godzilla kept things simple by pitting Godzilla against a couple of generic monsters. Kong: Skull Island enacts a few WWE matches between (and imagine the word “giant” in front of these animals) an ape and a spider, a water buffalo, an octopus, a cricket, and a couple of two legged geckos. While this may not be the classic King Kong narrative and certainly off-putting to some people, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I have not seen the original 1933 film, only the 2005 remake and the 2017 reboot, so that is the comparison I will make. The remake is set during the Great Depression and is about a film production hoping to make it big; unfortunately making it big involved stumbling upon an island trying to kill one of the two Andy Serkis characters. The reboot is set at the tail end of the Vietnam War with the motivation for dangerous island exploration resting on William Randa (John Goodman) desiring to prove that ancient monsters are dwelling in a surprisingly hollow earth. Randa convinces a senator to give him the funding and promises ex-SAS serviceman James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) an absurd amount of money to accompany them. They receive escort from Preston Packard’s (Samuel L. Jackson) helicopter squadron and are joined by a bunch of scientists who no one cares about and war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). To absolutely nobody’s surprise, their plan dies on arrival and the rest of the movie becomes a mixed quest to either kill Kong or escape from Skull Island depending on which party of people is currently on screen.
From the previous paragraph, one may have noticed some noteworthy names. Sadly, none of them are given much material to work with and come across as one dimensional; few characters undergo any sort of development. John C. Reilly steals the movie from the moment he is introduced, bringing with him some needed levity and fear of the Skullcrawlers. Kong does not get the kind of dramatization that Andy Serkis delivers in King Kong, but fulfills the indifferent monster role well. Kong battles anyone who challenges his reign, whether human or beast.
One minor gripe was the excessive amount of helicopters and troops there were. I am unfamiliar with exactly how large a helicopter squadron is, but the beginning and end of the movie featured way more helicopters than were shown to be able to fit on a ship. The amount of troops Packard has available on the ground also seems to fluctuate. Ultimately, I am okay with it because it means more helicopters for Kong to destroy and more troops to futilely combat the monsters of the island.
The movie is paced fairly well with necessary downtime between the WWE matchups. The combat is variable with Kong handling himself better than the troops when it comes to self-defense. There is a standout moment involving the troops defending themselves in the fog against a Skullcrawler with a camera in its stomach. It is a brief, but excellent moment of suspense in what is a better than average stylish blockbuster.
3 out of 4 stars.