Kong: Skull Island Review

*Mild Spoiler Warning but nothing not in trailers

I feel I should say before writing this review that I am not a movie snob. I can enjoy a stupid monster movie just as much as the next girl. In fact, I recently defended The Great Wall as just that kind of film. However, the thing about The Great Wall is it was visually inventive and consistent, which kept me entertained throughout. I went into Kong Skull Island expecting a similar experience and left feeling disappointed. Kong Skull Island has positives but in the end I don’t think it is successful.

This version of Kong is set in the 1970s which was pretty creative, but like everything these days it is meant to fit into a cinematic universe with Godzilla and other famous monsters.

The conceit is the Vietnam War is ending and John Goodman’s character named Bill gathers a group of soldiers, trackers, scientists and a photographer to explore Skull Island. Once they arrive they face the giant ape King Kong and a variety of other creatures as well as meet a man marooned there in 1944 played by John C Reily.

The special effects with Kong are first-rate and very entertaining. The problem is these special effects are not consistent throughout the movie. The 1933 film, hokey as it may now seem, had a consistent look to all the creature designs. In this film there are these lizard creatures that Kong fights which I thought looked really bad. They seemed like something out of a movie from the early 2000s not 2017. This was a real problem because there are multiple scenes with just the lizards including one with some of the most ridiculous slow motion I’ve seen in a long time.

The writing was also pretty inconsistent. Again, I don’t expect great writing in a film like this but it needs to be consistent. Many of the characters felt like they were in different movies, seeing different realities. Tom Hiddleston is bland as the tracker who one moment leaves a boat and yet needs his super duper tracking skills to find the river? Brie Larson is there as a photographer but her relationship with Kong feels so tagged on and underdeveloped. In the 1933 version Ann Darrow and Kong have a relationship that develops over time leading to Kong being encaged and put on display. It makes sense he would feel for her. Not here. The real victim to underwritten characters is Samuel L Jackson’s Lieutenant Packard. He basically acts like an insane man from another movie. His actions make no sense for an army man (or sane human for that matter) and all of the sudden the movie becomes a revenge piece that doesn’t work at all. They even repeat his iconic line from Jurassic Park, which I thought was a very odd choice. A character I did like was John C. Reily’s marooned 1944’s soldier. He was consistently written throughout the film. His choices made sense and he was entertaining in the way you want a B movie performance to be. Along with Kong, he was my favorite thing in the movie.

Even Kong is underwritten in this film. In the 1933 film you see him grow as a character. He has emotion and heart as he is hunted and then chained to show off to the crowd. Here they try to get some of that emotion but it doesn’t work and his choices towards the end don’t make any sense. It became a bunch of lizard battles when what I wanted was a Kong movie.

The soundtrack was really good! Full of 70s hits, so there’s that but I was disappointed by Kong Skull Island. There are moments of fun but it just wasn’t consistent enough for me to endorse.

Overall Grade- C-

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16 thoughts on “Kong: Skull Island Review

  1. I just came back from seeing it, and while I agree with a lot of the points you raised I was still entertained by it. It’s essentially a glorified B-movie (like you said The Great Wall was) and never takes itself seriously like the previous Kong iterations. Which may be it’s downfall or the thing that makes it unique, depending on who you ask. Still, for me the second best Kong film is still the Peter Jackson film. That film is at least an hour too long and suffers from a weak romantic angle, but the stuff he got right (as far as the Kong mythology goes) he got really right, and it was a clear passion project for him.

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    1. Yeah I agree with what you are saying about Jackson. I think if I had liked the lizards more but they felt so off with the level of Kong that it bothered me

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I won’t bother to defend the film because it’s just silly popcorn entertainment. With that said, I enjoyed it. It didn’t disappoint me, although I suppose I wasn’t expecting great art so perhaps my requirements weren’t very high.

    One thing I will offer however is that this is supposed to be an “original” (read different) story. Comparing the character of Ann Darrow with Brie Larsen’s Mason Weaver isn’t equivalent because they’re different people. They’re both women, but that’s where the similarities end. There was essentially no relationship between the two of them at all.

    P.S. It’s certainly reasonable that you enjoyed the relationship between “the woman” and Kong more in earlier versions, though. That’s fair. 🙂

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    1. Fair enough. The Brie Larson/Kong thing just felt a little tagged on and underdeveloped but I see what you are saying. I can see having fun with this like I did with The Great Wall

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  3. It’s funny; we both saw the same movie and both have the same criticisms, and yet I liked the movie more than you did. 🙂 (You know I give star ratings, but, were I to give Kong a letter grade, it would be B+.) Story-wise, Skull Island reminded me more of a ’40s pulp-magazine story than any kind of movie. I grew up reading those stories, so maybe there’s a subconscious nostalgia factor working for me. Oh, well. It is what it is 🙂

    Visually, however, there are lots of movies that this is referencing, from (of course) Apocalypse Now to late-’60s action thrillers to even ’70s political thrillers (the few scenes at the White House). But… yeah.

    Anyway, I literally have almost the exact same issues that you have. (Except for Samuel L. Jackson’s Jurassic Park call-back; I thought it was more funny than weird.) Yet, I can’t bring myself to be too hard on the film. Oh, well! Different strokes for different folks 🙂

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    1. Actually, story-wise, John C. Reilly’s character did remind me of a movie trope 🙂 He has a parallel in just about every horror movie: the experienced survivor who knows everything there is to know about the dangerous situation. I love that character!

      Actually, all the characters are adventure/action movie archetypes. Since this is such a pulpy adventure story, though, that actually seemed to fit. It didn’t bother me as much as it ordinarily would 🙂

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    2. That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I guess the Jurassic Park line seemed nuts to me because why remind your audience of a better film the actor was in? It’s like reinforcing your own mediocrity

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That makes sense. Actually, I felt like Skull Island made two references to Jurassic Park; one major character’s death felt remarkably similar to the way Gennaro dies in Jurassic. I’m assuming the director is a fan…

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      2. Yeah that was more of an homage where I felt repeating a famous line was a strange choice. But that’s a small flaw. It was more consistency. I felt the creatures weren’t consistently rendered and the human characters all felt like they were in different movies.

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