By Luke Hutton (England)
How Kong: Skull Island has been a critical success is baffling to me. It’s long, boring, character arcs are confusing and overall fails at what it set out to do (expand Warner Bros “MonsterVerse”) until the post credit scene, which in my eyes is the best scene of the ENTIRE movie.
Set In 1973, at the end of the Vietnam War, a group of scientists, soldiers, Tom Hiddlestone and Brie Larson, set out on an expedition to map out a previously unexplored island, Skull Island (which doesn’t look like a Skull), where their expedition mission quickly turns into a survival and escape mission after they meet the titular character – Kong.
It’s quite incredible how a cast of this level can so poorly used for a movie. I have not seen this amount of misuse since Ridley Scott’s The Counsellor.
John Goodman’s character is crazy, and not in a good way. He’s phoning in the craziness and his characters decision making throughout the movie is brought into question, and when it is revealed his background, you just don’t care. Toby Kebbell, who is still trying to relight his career after playing Doom in Fant4stic, is used in this movie as the Saving Private Ryan character in this movie, fails to follow the simplest of order and is also used so the audience could see the full extent of what was on this Island. He also wins the award for having the worst fake accent I have seen in the last few years.
Tom Hiddlestone is portrayed as a weird action star (possibly to show off what he could do as James Bond? Please no) which just doesn’t fit into this film at all, and it’s frustrating how he is brought on this mission to be the Island guide / survivalist… BUT NO ONE LISTENS TO HIM! Brie Larson is only in this movie to be the damsel in distress character, who has the ability to shift a fallen helicopter (what?) and be the connection between the humans and Kong, it’s also incredible how through this movie no one decides to hand her a gun on this hostile island, thinking she will be fine with just a camera, and the only gun she does use is a flare gun in the last 5 minutes of the film.
John C. Reilly is the saviour of this movie however and is possibly one of the only things in this movie I fully enjoyed. Playing a WWII Pilot who was shot down and has been marooned on the island since 1944, he plays the comedy relief of the film and his questions about what the world is like now are both humorous and make you realise how much he hasn’t seen in the 30 years he was stuck on this island, his motivations and stories of what he’s been through and what’s waiting for him on the outside is enough to cheer for this guy. However, like Hiddlestone, his knowledge of the island is fully ignored throughout this movie and he even makes reference to it later on with a line like “Sure, don’t listen to the guy who’s been here for 29 years…” Yeah. Why wouldn’t you?
But the worst character in this movie by far is Samuel L. Jackson. His character of the Lieutenant Colonel, leader of the soldiers, has one of the weirdest character developments in a movie where he takes Kong’s first interaction with the humans, where he destroys multiple helicopters, personally and is hell bent on the destruction of the ape than getting off the island, and why any of his troopers go along with him is just bizarre, and it feels that Sam Jackson was only chosen for this role so he could reuse some catchphrases from some of his older movies (he even says “Hold on to your butts” at one point.)
Speaking of the ape, Kong was great for the times he was shown. The first action scene where he takes on around 15 helicopters is magnificent and it’s one of the best scenes we’ve ever seen of him, and his motivations throughout the movie are understandable and anyone would do the same in his situation, protect his home and take out any threat which faces him. The problem is he just isn’t seen as much as you want him to be as the movie heavily focuses on the human characters rather than the titular characters.
Another issue I have with Kong is, in my eyes, he’s too small. He works fine for this movie although I did feel his size did vary a little at times and I found moments where he trod on someone or hit someone into the ground didn’t have the desired impact/effect I wanted (it wasn’t any AT-AT approaching a rebels on a beach from Rogue One, which came out only 3 months before this movie), but the main issue of his size is that he is set to take on the Godzilla from the 2014 in an upcoming movie, and I just can’t see how he would not be killed with one hit from that mountain of a monster.
However, this problem can be saved in time for the upcoming “Godzilla Vs Kong” as John C. Reilly makes a throwaway statement in the movie when someone says about the “giant ape” that he is “only going to get bigger in time”. As this movie is set in 1973, they have a solid 45 years to work with in regards to Kong size issue.
Apart from Kong’s first action scene, the rest of the actions moments are poor and the same goes for the rest of the monsters on the Island. A fight scene between Kong and a giant Octopus (I don’t know why it was in here either) was over in seconds and could’ve easily been left out of the film. The soldiers fight against a giant Spider is also hard to watch as the CGI for the spider is painfully incomplete and looks so poor for today’s standards, there is also a great tree looking creature which is in this movie for 20 seconds… MAX. And any interaction with the uninspired design Skull Crawlers was just not fun to watch.
And this brings me up to my next point… The Skull Crawlers. Firstly, the name is bad. Secondly, the design isn’t anything special (reminded me of the MUTOs from Godzilla quite a lot). And thirdly, their biology is all over the place; There is a scene in this film where the humans are in a foggy crater, I won’t spoil why, and they come across the Skull Crawlers in a scene which is filled with so many plot holes and inconsistencies that I was physically scratching my head and getting frustrated in the cinema at it. There is a moment where one of the monsters has swallowed a camera which is still flashing and the flashes can be clearly seen in the fog in the stomach of the Crawler, but it is shown that these things are bulletproof and are unaffected by the bullets of a machine gun BUT THEN! Not even half a minute later, John C. Reilly’s character is able to cut through the creature with a samurai sword like it was paper. How? I don’t know either.
The action scenes and the Skull Crawlers are not the only problems on show here, the pacing of this movie is a mess right from the beginning. The opening scene, which could’ve easily been a flashback, goes on for too long and spoils the reveal of Kong – rather than them building up to him. From there, the journey to get onto the island and the parts of Vietnam (featuring one of the most blatant Budweiser Product Placements) are rushed through just to get to the island quicker than needed. Even parts on the island are slow. Once the teams are split, the movie slows to a snail pace, and the action scenes are rushed through just to get to character development points and the awkward on-screen chemistry between Brie Larsen and Tom Hiddlestone.
The most impressive thing about the entire movie is the fact that this train-wreck of a film has one of the best Post Credits Scene I have ever seen and has got me hyped for what is to come in later instalments, as much as when I first saw an eye-patched Sam Jackson waiting for Robert Downey Jr. to discuss the “Avengers Initiative”. It is a diamond in a rough and makes Kong: Skull Island possibly one of the only movies in which the Post Credits scene is better than the actual movie.
All in All, this movie is bad. It has a few good things in it (John C. Reilly, Kong, Post Credit Scene) but the rest of this movie is poor. Poor pacing, poor CGI, poor world building, and a waste of an A list cast. How this movie hasn’t been butchered by critics is miraculous in its own right and this unwanted / unneeded Kong Reboot has left a sour taste in my mouth and makes this the worst movie I have seen so far this year.
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