Seven Chest poundings out of Ten
The giant gorilla King Kong is one of cinemas oldest and most recognizable movie icons. If you go into “Kong: Skull Island” looking for something that meets that level of prestige, you will be disappointed. But, if you’re just looking for a big blockbuster rollercoaster ride then the film should absolutely be satisfying.
Following a group of soldiers and scientist exploring an uncharted island in the Pacific at the tail end of the Vietnam War, the film actually does a decent job of drawing flavor from the era. It’s an often very stylized film, between the Vietnam era influence and the mysterious natural wonder of the titular Skull Island. It’s engaging, and often stunning, but it also leads me to one of my two major issues with the film. “Kong: Skull Island” has a heavy focus on moments, to expense of its scenes. Throughout the film you’ll get amazing, gorgeous shots but after they pass, it feels like the film is just trying to shuffle into the next one. It makes the cinematography frequently feel awkward and inconsistent. It certainly doesn’t ruin the film, and the eye candy is awesome, but it’s good scenes, not good moments that make good movies.
The other major issue with Kong is that its cast is simply much larger than it needs to be. It’s so large that Kong doesn’t stop spending time introducing characters for more than a half an hour into the film – and honestly it shows. The film will frequently spend scenes developing characters that really don’t further the main plot. Their character arcs, if they have one, are pretty consistently underdeveloped and consequently unengaging. Frankly, the only two characters besides Kong that were really needed for the main plot were Samuel L. Jackson’s and John C. Reilly’s. Consequently, they were also the most interesting characters in the film, and “Kong: Skull Island” could have really benefited from bringing them into the main focus. Instead we got a bland standard action movie romance between Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston and a handful of soldiers whose sole purpose is to either die or almost die.
I know it sounds like I’m really bagging on “Kong: Skull Island,” but it really isn’t a bad action flick. It does have some gorgeous shots and the island itself is handled very well. King Kong is great too, and every time he’s the focus of the scene it’s incredibly engaging. And, despite there being simply too many of them, the cast is giving competent performances across the board.