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Film Review – Kong: Skull Island (2017)

After the financial success of 2014’s Godzilla, executives at Warner Bros. decided to move forward with a “MonsterVerse.”  The movie looks to setup for a future movie with a massive showdown between Godzilla and King Kong.  The next step to get to that promising monster movie has been released and showcases the other half of the matchup, King Kong.  The following review of Kong: Skull Island will be spoiler free.

Synopsis

Kong: Skull Island is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and contains a litany of stars such as Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and Samuel L. Jackson.

We begin with a select few discovering a previously uncharted island called Skull Island.  After getting funding to embark on an expedition to the island, Bill Randa (John Goodman) enlists the help of a select team full of military personnel (led by Jackson’s character), a tracker (Hiddleston), a photographer (Larson), and a few others.  Upon entry into the island, the team learns that its presence there is not welcomed in the slightest.

Kong: Skull Island

image via The Atlantic

Background

Although my expectations were pretty high for Kong: Skull Island, I was even more intrigued for the implications of future movies to come.  It may be a little annoying that almost every semi-major property has to build a cinematic universe these days, but in this case, it feels warranted.  A movie where Godzilla and King Kong fight sounds pretty great on paper, and that premise alone will absolutely have moviegoers around the world licking their chops.

The one thing that makes me nervous when there’s an announcement for a new movie universe is that the movies at the beginning of the newly created universe end up worrying too much about setting up future movies that the team involved in the current movie forget to create a compelling story filled with rich characters and intriguing story lines.  Being that Kong: Skull Island is the first film released since the announcement of the “MonsterVerse,” I entered the theater hoping that my fears would be quickly extinguished.

Kong: Skull Island

image via ComingSoon.net

What I Didn’t Like

Unfortunately, those fears became very apparent as Kong: Skull Island progressed.

The director of the film, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, is the next in line in the trend of giving directors who made a positively reviewed independent film a massive movie within a franchise.  Throughout Kong: Skull Island, it appeared that Vogt-Roberts was attempting to show how great of a director he is by giving the film a signature feel and look in order to make a name for himself as a director.  However, the directing (along with the editing) becomes largely insufferable.

The opening act of the film is edited to shreds as the film tries so hard to be fun by containing action that is constantly slowed down and sped up while guns are fired in relation to the beat of the score, feeling like a music video as the film desperately attempts to give off a 70’s aura with many Vietnam-era rock songs.  Such manipulation of footage onscreen far surpasses anything that we’ve seen from Michael Bay.

As an example, Vogt-Roberts tries to setup for a shot of Kong with a backdrop of a yellow, setting sun in the background that I’m sure you’ve seen in the trailers.  However, he splices this shot between two fully lit shots that make the action appear to take place at midday.  Sure, the shot itself looks neat.  But, it makes zero sense within the context of the film as it makes it seem like the film is moving in time from noon to dusk and back to noon again.  There are moments where Vogt-Roberts displays a talent for colorful visuals.  But, he too often hampers the movie with over-directing instead of letting the film breath.

Kong: Skull Island

image via HollywoodNews.com

What I Didn’t Like…Continued

But the negatives don’t stop there, the writing and dialogue are shockingly bad for a major studio release.  The tone of Kong: Skull Island fluctuates mightily.  When our “characters” attempt to spout one-liners or have witty banter, it falls very, very flat.  It often felt quite uncomfortable watching it play out on screen.

But let’s be honest, you don’t go to the theater to see a movie like Kong: Skull Island for award-winning performances from the human characters.  You want to see a massive ape smash everything in sight.  However, to have practically no characterization in such a movie is still a major misstep.  One thing that is almost certain for a monster movie is that the humans will find themselves in terror among the massive monster fights.

However, if there no is arc for the characters, it effectively lowers the stakes of the actions scenes.  This makes you less invested in the monster fight because the characters who are in trouble mean absolutely nothing to you.  Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson certainly look attractive in the film (the camera tends to linger on both of them).  However, they aren’t even characters.  Kong: Skull Island simply expects you to like them because you’ve liked them in other movies.  The only characters with any type of substance in the film are Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly, but they aren’t developed enough to save this film’s lack of characterization.

Kong: Skull Island

image via rogerebert.com

What I Liked

However, despite my issues with the film, almost every moment that includes King Kong himself is very riveting.  When Jordan Vogt-Roberts calms down and lets the action speak for itself, there’s a lot of beauty to behold.  Kong has some glorious fight sequences with fight moves that rival that of any other monster movie.  The movie also has some great moments from other creatures that live on Skull Island that interact with Kong.  Every time Kong is on screen, Kong: Skull Island is pretty electric.  These few scenes may make the movie worth the price of admission for a wide range of moviegoers.  Although I feel a little lukewarm with Kong: Skull Island as a whole, Kong himself makes me excited the future “MonsterVerse.”

Kong: Skull Island

image via The New York Times

Conclusion

As a whole, Kong: Skull Island let me down.  I liked King Kong, but not the movie he was in.  I’ll give Kong: Skull Island a C-.  Many people will probably end up liking this film for the smashing, calling the film a “popcorn movie.”  But for those looking for a little more, the film falters mightily.  Be sure to stay for the credits because there’s an after credits scene (as if this film wasn’t trying hard enough to a Marvel film already).

Kong: Skull Island

image via Horror Freak News

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Thanks for reading!  Have you seen Kong: Skull Island?  Comment down below!

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What movie topic should I discuss next?  Whether it be old or new, the choice is up to you!

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

20 Responses

  1. You make some interesting points about the movie. I think the sunset scenes are in there because Jordan-Vogts made this version of King Kong via his memories of Apolalypse Now. The whole film is a massive tribute to Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece and other Vietnam War movies too. The opening sequence is directly acknowledging Hell in The Pacific. It’s a Kong film that owes a great debt to seventies cinema. Take a look at my review of Kong Skull Island here:
    https://darrenmoverley81.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/kong-skull-island/

    • MovieBabble says:

      I understand the homage to the Apocalypse Now and it certainly looks cool, but they way the film is edited together those shots don’t make sense. You can’t have one sequence jump back and forth to different times of the day. It’s more jarring than it is cool looking

  2. tgbom says:

    Great post! I have just created a movie journal if you would like to see opinions about the newest movies at the cinema! Feel free to comment with a movie you would like me to watch! (and follow 🙂 )

  3. zoejr says:

    I’ll watch it just because of the actors … but of course, you know comparisons are to be made with King Kong (2005) to me that was an epic Kong.

  4. osmovies says:

    I saw that movie. Kong was all pissed off on everything. In fact, Samuel L. Jackson was like Ahab from “Moby Dick”, as well as Kong as Moby Dick himself.

  5. Carlisle says:

    I saw it on Saturday, and while I enjoyed it overall, I found myself thinking about it all the way home and I couldn’t quite place my finger on it but there was something “off” about it. Like it was missing that spark to truly make it a blockbuster. I can see this movie falling short financially. I wanted it to succeed, but there’s something missing. But all in all, it’s a decent enough time-passer, in that “check your brain at the door” kinda way. Not sure if I’m making any kinda sense, lol. But thanks for the great review!

    • MovieBabble says:

      Lol that definitely made sense! Like I said, you can definitely enjoy this movie in the right frame of mind. It made $61 million its first weekend so I guess it’s doing okay

      • carlisle1979 says:

        I guess I just dont see it having legs, what with Beauty & The Beast, Ghost In The Shell and Power Rangers coming out in next couple weeks. I saw reports it would need to make 500 million globally due to the 185 million budget, but I hope it reaches the target. I still wanna see Kong take on Godzilla.

      • MovieBabble says:

        It’s certainly a packed month this year! It almost feels like a summer month with all the blockbusters

  6. Sar says:

    I just can’t bring myself to watch this one, to me the trailer looks just too ridiculous to even give it a chance,

    • MovieBabble says:

      If you feel that way then I would suggest staying away from it. Nothing’s very special about it

      • Sar says:

        That’s what I was thinking too. I watched the trailer for Geostorm and that looks pretty interesting, so looking forward to your review for that one

      • MovieBabble says:

        I’ve read where the production of Geostorm had a lot of problems so we’ll see. There’s also a ridiculous side plot where there’s apparently an assassination attempt on the president going on too lol. But who knows, it could be good, silly fun!

      • Sar says:

        Oh really. Haha it shall be interesting to see how it pans out then!

      • MovieBabble says:

        It might fall into the category of “so bad it’s good!”

  7. raistlin0903 says:

    Haven’t seen the movie yet, but my expectations for it were already low. I am definitely going to check it out, and from what I have read so far about the film, I expect it to be entertaining enough to warrant a trip to the theatres. Great post as always ?

  1. May 17, 2017

    […] *To read my review of Kong: Skull Island, please click here. […]

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