KONG: SKULL ISLAND
FILM REVIEW - KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Running Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: 9th March 2017
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman
Screenplay by: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein
Cinematography: Larry Fong
Oo Oooh. And, indeed, ah aaah.
You just can’t keep a giant monkey down.
Since Merian C. Cooper’s humungous ape first appeared in the 1933 RKO Pictures original, King Kong has been the subject of countless sequels, prequels and spin-offs. Kong: Skull Island is the second entry in what Legendary Pictures hope will become a lucrative franchise. It follows Garth Edwards’ largely unloved Godzilla reboot, and while the two movies aren’t linked per se, the plan is to have these two behemoths go ape-toe to lizard-toe in Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020. Because apparently that’s something we want to see.
Kong: Skull Island is not as unwieldly as Peter Jackson’s sprawling 3-hour opus from 2005, but neither is it as compelling. Here the action is set in 1973, against the backdrop of Watergate and the start of US withdrawal from Vietnam. A shady company man called Randa (John Goodman) heads an expedition of scientists, soldiers and assorted red shirts to a mysterious island hidden from civilisation by some odd weather patterns. But here be monsters; big things eat smaller things, and nothing is bigger than Kong.
Rookie director Jordan Vogt-Roberts doesn’t waste any time introducing the main attraction. And this updated Kong certainly looks convincing. Al Nelson‘s (20 Feet from Stardom) sound design is impressive, and for once the physics are right with little evidence of the weightlessness that often affects these CG-heavy blockbusters. Unfortunately, there’s a ton of human characters running around and spoiling the fun.
This is a movie with a serious crisis of identity. Gruesome violence is mixed with knockabout slapstick, and the pacing is completely off with the action constantly interrupted with endless trudging through the jungle.
Kong: Skull Island is dense with monkey-as-metaphor subtext (man meddling with nature, US defeat in Vietnam), but only a fool or an academic would look for meaning in something this dumb. The script is embarrassingly weak; particularly during the introductory 20 minutes (It seems the “Exposition Here” placeholder dialogue went unchanged between first draft and shooting script).
At least the cast have the good sense not to take this seriously, but the only actor to walk away with dignity intact is John C. Reilly. Playing a WWII pilot stranded on the island for 30 years with a flimsy grasp on reality and no tact filter, Reilly is a highlight in a movie full of lowlights. It is simply baffling how Tom Hiddleston is in contention for these action hero-type roles. Here, it seems that he can’t quite believe it himself. More Mr. Bean than Mr. Bond, Hiddleston is a charisma vacuum that sucks the life out of everything he comes into contact with. Brie Larson certainly deserves better. And as for Samuel L. Jackson (who else?), it seems that he’s now picking scripts based on weight.
Big? Yes. Dumb? Oh, most certainly. But fun? In parts, but in the end Kong: Skull Island is a giant turkey.