Kong: Skull Island serves as the second film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, following the monster hit that was Godzilla back in 2014. With an up and coming director at the helm, a mightily impressive cast in tow and, of course, the iconic Kong himself on full show, the ingredients were there for this to be another great monster film.
When a team of explorers and soldiers venture to an unchartered island in the Pacific, they get more than they bargained for when they realise the island is home to an array of giant creatures, including the mythic Kong.
Let’s get the few negatives I had with Kong: Skull Island out of the way first. I wasn’t particularly a massive fan of how they blew their load too early by showing Kong pretty much within the first fifteen minutes, losing any sense of awe that this iconic monster deserves. Compare it to the way Gareth Edwards built up to Godzilla’s reveal and it’s almost as if there’s a total lack of respect for Kong.
Then there are the human characters and the film’s screenplay, both void of any real weight. The characters are about as bland as they come and they’re matched by some truly uninspired performances from the likes of Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson, who really try their best with some awful dialogue. The most interesting character is Samuel L. Jackson’s Preston Packard, who holds a real grudge against Kong however, they miss a chance for Jackson to go fully off the rails and his tirade against Kong comes across as half-hearted. John C. Reilly was the performance most people were worried about in this film but because of how his character is written into the film and the fact he isn’t just an annoying joke machine, he is one of the best things about the film.
It’s easy to say this is a film about Kong so we shouldn’t really worry about the human characters. If we are supposed to care about what happens to these characters then there simply has to be something about them for us to give a damn about. Unfortunately, this is a similar problem that Godzilla faced.
Kong: Skull Island may be found lacking in some departments but I can’t deny that there is still a lot of fun to be had with this film. Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ film moves along at such a blistering pace and he certainly shows he can deliver an action sequence. I mentioned that the film lacks a sense of awe, particularly with the film moving from giant beast to giant beast so swiftly, but Vogt-Roberts manages to make amends with the final two set-pieces of the film, the final fight between Kong and a ‘skull crawler’ being the film’s stand-out moment.
Kong himself looks fantastic, brought to life through a motion-capture performance from Terry Notary, as do the rest of the visual effects, and the decision to shoot on location in places like Hawaii and Vietnam rather than in a green-screen studio amplifies the great visual effects work on this film, as does Larry Fong’s cinematography.
I’d have to say Kong: Skull Island left me a little disappointed, even if it does deliver plenty of action and has a post credits scene that left me excited for the future of the MonsterVerse. It certainly made me understand why there was no ‘King’ included in the title.