There was precious little wrong with Peter Jackson's 2005 spectacle King Kong. With great VFX, convincing performances across the board, and a Kong modelled on Andy Serkis, it went down well with both fans and critics. So, when Kong: Skull Island was announced, it was always going to be an uphill task to recreate the magic of its predecessor. And this movie is no Sisyphus.
While the trailer seemed exciting, the movie itself is more of a drag. Instead of the usual tale of King Kong, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts chooses to lay the groundwork for a lucrative series going forward. As such, Skull Island becomes an inoffensive but uninspiring reboot of the franchise.
With a cast including John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Samuel L Jackson, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston, the movie was never going to be abject, but it still falls well short of Peter Jackson's epic.
While the dialogue is part clunky and part cheesy, and the ensemble cast doesn't entirely gel even if they all manage to turn in strictly okay performances, a large part of the movie’s failure is because of Roberts’ mandate to build a franchise.
The essence of the King Kong franchise is it's titular beast Kong, and Skull Island largely ignored this. Instead, the focus is on Skull Island and its many monsters, with a final product that is closer to Jurassic Park.
As a result, the heart of the franchise - the humanity within the monster - is lost. It's alluded to, sure, but not in a way that will satisfy any fans of the original franchise.
What we get instead is a tale of a ragtag bunch of explorers and soldiers desperately trying to flee Skull Island and its menagerie of beasts.
The movie is centered around Bill Randa’s (Goodman) quest to reach Skull Island for motives that aren't immediately clear at the outset of the movie. To do this, he enlists the help of Hiddleston, an ex-British special service soldier, and the services of Samuel L Jackson and his boys, US soldiers serving in Vietnam. Along with Brie Larson, an anti-war journalist and two of Randa's scientists, the team reach Skull Island where they discover the island is occupied by gigantic monsters.
After Kong attacks the team, killing a lot of Jackson's men, the team is split up. Jackson and his men then set out to avenge their comrades, while the rest chance upon a US soldier (Reilly) who has been stranded on Skull Island for decades. Reilly explains to the team that Kong is the island’s protector.
Reilly's introduction is the movie's saving grace, with all the film's funny moments coming as a result of his comic timing and delivery. He manages to lift the movie from a dull and predictable one, to an almost likeable tale, not only introducing the only genuine conflict in the movie, but also getting the audience genuinely invested in the survival of the team.
The movie's driving force is meant to be the special effects and action, but neither of these manage to truly wow. The special effects, given the franchise, is good, but not overly imaginative or breathtaking. The action, meanwhile, is often short and fairly routine despite the potential to be so much more. In most cases, the film's action seems curtailed in favour of a PG rating, where a gritty, even gory tinge would have elevated the movie and done justice to the setting of Skull Island.
The only truly protracted action sequence, indeed the only one where Kong is central to the movie, is in the film's climax, and here the action bucks the trend by being both long but wholly annoying.
All in all, the movie isn't great as a King Kong movie. On the action front as well, the movie will fail to compete with competition like Logan. Sure the madness of Skull Island may get children excited, but adults will find the movie largely unimpressive. Despite this, the promise of a series going forward means any fans of the King Kong franchise will be forced to sit through it.
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