In his first big budget film, Jordan Vogt-Roberts was given the helm of the new King Kong reboot. Kong: Skull Island is a reimagining of the original 1933 King Kong. Rather than taking place in the early 1900s it takes place in 1973 immediately following the end of the Vietnam war. Instead of seeing biplanes and tommy guns, we get M60’s and hueys. The film follows a group of geological scientists with a military escort to the mythical Skull Island to see what discoveries they could find. It all goes awry when they are attacked by a giant gorilla and are forced to suffer through the terrifying terrain and creatures of a forget era to get back to the extraction point.
The film stars Tom Hiddleston as a retired SAS operative who is now a “tracker” for hire (basically a mercenary), Brie Larson as a war photographer, John Goodman as a crackpot scientist that believes in monsters, and Samuel L. Jackson as the leader of the platoon that is the military escort who is war obsessed and is off his rocker. If you want to know more about the characters you are fresh out of luck cause that’s about as much development as you get in the movie. All of the other characters fall into clichés of character building and provide no real impact to the movie except they are there. The one exception is John C. Reilly who plays a World War II veteran who crashed on the island in 1944 and had been there ever since. He is a funny and endearing presence on screen and gives the only good performance in the film. While no actors in the film give poor performances, I very much enjoyed Jason Mitchell and Thomas Mann, the script’s lack of character building meant even if the performance was decent the character still felt generic.
The lack of character development and lackluster green screen makes for a less than impressive movie watching experience. Kong himself looks pretty good and the action sequences that he is involved in are definitely entertaining. The Vietnam era is a great place to reimagine the story of King Kong but the film invests too heavily in the idea of it, utilizing every Vietnam movie troupe known to man. Also, heavily overdoing the Vietnam war music throughout the film. The plot is interesting at the start when it is about a geological expedition but once they get to the island and all hell breaks loose that plot goes out the window and instead it becomes a survival expedition through the jungle, which could make for some suspenseful and interesting action. Instead, Jackson’s character throws a wrench in that as well and makes it a search and rescue for a lost soldier that is only there to force the characters into the dangerous part of the island. It is a story move that makes no sense because, even though this story is not based in reality, if anyone was in a situation like this they would not go miles into dangerous territory for one guy who is probably dead.
The worst thing this movie does though is give up Kong way to early. You can see him in the trailers and he is shown about 3 minutes into the movie as well. Unlike the recent Godzilla reboot, which takes place in the same universe as this so they can have a Kong v. Godzilla movie, it doesn’t use any of the monster movie suspense. We get hints of how big Godzilla is in that movie and in the end, get to see a full-size shot and a great fight. This movie just throws Kong at us right away to try and have us be interested and just blinded by CGI. It forgets to use the mystique of a monster film to build the suspense of when we get to see it in action the first time.
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