THE STORY - This film fully immerses audiences in the mysterious and dangerous home of the king of the apes as a team of explorers ventures deep inside the treacherous, primordial island.
THE CAST - Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Käbbel, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary & John C. Reilly
THE TEAM - Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Director), Dan Gilroy & Max Borenstein (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME - 118 Minutes
THE GOOD - Never loses its sense of fun and adventure with some very terrific action scenes.
THE BAD - Some cringe worthy writing and awkward comedic moments. Terrible editing.
THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None
THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10
FULL REVIEW 1
By Matt N.
Say what you will about Peter Jackson's divisive 2005 remake of "King Kong." However, the one thing that film had going for it against this 2017 film featuring the big ape is that the title character at least had some level of personality. In "Kong: Skull Island" one might be mistaken to believe that Kong himself is actually the film's villain at first. Once the film's true villain is actually revealed it becomes clear that the real villain here are the filmmakers, who butcher characterization and basic storytelling techniques to give us a film that is high on spectacle and light on everything else.
It's 1973 and government official/scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman) along with his assistant and geologist, Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are doing everything they can to bring together an expedition to explore an uncharted island that they believe contains potential "monsters." They receive the funding and a team of scientists and a military escort led by Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) that includes Captain Earl Cole (Shea Whigham), Slivko (Thomas Mann), Reles (Eugene Cordero), Glenn Mills (Jason Mitchell), and Jack Chapman (Toby Kebell). It's not enough though, as Bill and Houston get the aid of a British tracker/mercenary named James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and a war photographer named Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to get a shot of the beasts that live on the island so they can bring it back to prove that monsters truly do exist. When they arrive at Skull Island, they encounter large unbelievable creatures such as the giant ape known as Kong and man-eating lizards that long-time island resident Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) refers to as "skull crawlers."
"Kong: Skull Island" is right away put into a bad spot when we are introduced to basic characters with simple motivations and lack dimensionality. Tom Hiddleston is the charismatic tracker/mercenary. John Goodman is the whacky scientist who believes that monsters exist on the island. Samuel L. Jackson is the hard-nosed army commander who is nearing retirement. And Academy Award winner Brie Larson is a war photographer who, other than to get photographic proof of what exactly inhabits the island, happens to simply be along for the ride. Only John C. Reilly has a truly exciting backstory and becomes a character we actively want to root for. It's just a shame really that he is bogged down by such unfunny dialogue which not once manages to land correctly for a single character in this film. Even Shea Whigham, who does the best with what he is given to deliver a few funny one-liners, never is able to drive the dialogue home.
So we have poor characterization and poor dialogue. Nobody would care if they managed to get Kong himself right. Am I right? Well, the answer is no. Unfortunately, Kong's first scene is a multiple helicopter action scene that while it looks very epic in scope and is shot very well (Larry Fong is the cinematographer on this film and it truly looks stunning in some scenes), it's ultimately brought down by Kong's own motivations. In 2005's "King Kong" the giant ape did everything he could to not harm humans and instead was always either afraid of them, like in New York City, or trying to protect them from the creatures which inhabit Skull Island. While those clashes with the lizard-like creatures does occur in "Kong: Skull Island" it's this first scene with the helicopters which proves that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has action and spectacle on his mind instead of logic and storytelling. When Samuel L. Jackson's character says he wants to take revenge against the giant monkey for killing his men, he's not technically wrong even though he's really the true enemy in this movie. It creates for an odd viewing experience where we are forced to shut our brains completely off and enjoy Larry Fong's "Apocalypse Now" influenced imagery and Jordan Vogt-Roberts's "Jurassic Park" influenced action set-pieces. Neither adds up to a film that is compelling nor substantial in any way.
With a huge cast of likable actors that are either done away with before we can ever really get to know them or are lacking in characterization (We did not even mention Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins or Jing Tian), "Kong: Skull Island" is forced to put its focus on the main character himself: Kong. Unfortunately, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is more content with focusing on the apes' part within the action scenes and less on the ape himself. "Kong: Skull Island" is a film lacking in humanity and as a result becomes a meaningless cash grab by the studio to one day do a Godzilla vs. King Kong movie. Don't even get me started on the poor editing transitions or forceful music choices within this film. If you're going for the epic scope and spectacle, then "Kong: Skull Island" will be worth your time. For everyone else, this is one island you will not want to travel to anytime soon.
FULL REVIEW 2
By Ben S.
Whoever you are, you have to admit that modern audiences today go to the movies for loud action and/or raunchy comedies. Movies of this variety can either be very good or very bad. In one corner we have movies like "John Wick: Chapter 2," that can handle its gigantic world while, at the exact same time, make its audience scream at what insanely bad ass things our protagonist does. Then you have the ones that are just flat out boring, like "The Magnificent Seven." Thankfully, "Kong: Skull Island" finds a safe middle.
In an effort to get his company of bankruptcy, Bill Randa (John Goodman) obtains permission to go into one of the last uncharted islands in the world with a team of scientists and a military escort but things quickly go south when they realize what's waiting for them on the island. After crash landing on the island and losing many of their men, Bill and his crew attempt to find a way off the Skull Island which is home to animals the size of buildings and the king himself, Kong.
I'm going to address the elephant in the room right now which is, is Kong: Skull Island fun? Is it a movie I can go to to be thoroughly entertained and the answer is yes. Its pace is almost chokingly fast at times, there are so many different action scenes and possible characters that are thrown at you all at once, but you have no problem taking it in because of how it seems to perfectly convey everything. After the first act, it's a genuinely good movie too! This mainly comes from its performances. They are not anything revolutionary but they are enough to carry a movie like this, aside from when they are forced to do scenes with cringy melodrama (topped with slow motion shots and sad music). It also has a beautiful score (with some "Jurrasic Park" nods thrown in) and set designs/CGI that'll bring a tear to your eye. They are that beautiful.
When I was talking about the first act earlier and how it becomes good after that? I wasn't joking. It's awful. The movie kicks off with some borderline comedically toned skit, that supposedly is taking place during WWII as foreshadowing for what's to come. Aside from the introduction of John C. Reilly's character, the scene is useless and unfunny. Either it was a serious introduction to give us a feel of the world they are trying to portray, which they failed in making anything realistic due to missed gunfire from one character to another that you'd only see in one of those Saturday morning cartoons, or it was intentionally comedic and failed to be funny with its slapstick-like humor. Either way, it loses. Speaking of John C. Reilly, he's one of the few characters I had a problem with. He's not unbearably annoying but his sense of humor does get repetitive quite quickly. Sure, his character does have a few lines that I will probably quote to my friends multiple times in the coming days, but aside from that, he was nothing short of repetitive.
For the first 30-45 minutes, I thought we were about to be in for the next "Suicide Squad." It had a bipolar taste in music, cheesy narration that never appears again aside from the first 5 minutes, horribly written scenes and forced moments of "character development." Someone should have told the writers that character development means "Let's emphasizes that they are really good friends so people feel something when they die." If it was going to continue like that the entire time, I can tell you right now that my grade would be a lot lower. Thankfully, as soon as the made it through the thunderstorm wall that surrounds Skull Island, things get much, much better. As soon as our protagonists enter, we are greeted with a very thrilling, well shot and well-choreographed action scene. Oh yeah, it'll also go down as having one of the worst endings so far this year. It's such a gigantic tonal change for everything the film had represented itself to be and is totally unnecessary. You could have totally replaced it with the after credits scene.
In the end, "Kong: Skull Island" is fun but not without its flaws that are sometimes strong enough to rip you out of the film completely. It does not matter if it's as big as it's ending or as small as the opening shot. However, it's a lot of fun and definitely stay after the credits. You will not regret it!