Review: ‘Kong: Skull Island’ – A War Against Nature

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Earth’s natural order is always a fascinating topic. Faced with untouched land and unexplored regions, humankind has a tendency to disrupt and wreak havoc on nature while staking their claim to it. Choosing to usually shoot first and ask questions later without understanding is unfortunately not unusual, and it’s this arrogance that always sees the downfall of the characters in films like “Kong: Skull Island.” Balancing some good action with occasionally breathtaking visual shots, Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ film is forgettable, overly long, and the characters thinly written. It contends with nature and brings up the occasional thoughtful one-liner, but the film lacks any sense of momentum and imagination.

“Kong: Skull Island” begins with a war. World War II is being fought, but there’s also a one-on-one battle happening between two soldiers, one American, the other Japanese, when they crash land on a remote island. They don’t stop to take in their surroundings, too busy trying to kill one another. And it’s this setup and the question it asks of its characters, which is to stop and pay attention to the bigger things, that sets “Kong: Skull Island” on its course.

Decades later, at the end of the Vietnam War, Bill Randa (John Goodman) is on a mission to explore the topographical nature of the uncharted Skull Island, as it has hollow earth underneath its surface. He recruits a tracker, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), Sergeant Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), along with several soldiers and scientists, to come along on the trip. While there, they plant bombs that create breaches in the island’s core, causing King Kong himself to wage an attack on the group. After being separated, they come across natives of the island and Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who’s been stranded as well. Together, they have to fight their way off the island, but Kong isn’t their biggest threat. Rather, it’s the Skull Crawlers lurking beneath the surface.

Much like Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” remake, “Kong: Skull Island,” which serves as a larger part of Warner Bro.’s MonsterVerse, which began with the 2014 “Godzilla” reboot, is significantly dull. The biggest reason behind this is the fact that the plot overshadows the characters, who are shadows of human beings themselves. They fulfill the story’s needs, but not in a way that makes them really significant, interesting, or even well-rounded. People die left and right, arguments and disagreements are had in the handling of certain situations, and yet it all has no impact. It feels more like a flimsy excuse to get from point A to point B, minus the depth. Some of the action was exciting and there was a fantastic visual shot of Kong’s silhouette and the fading colors of sunset framed behind him, but it’s not enough to make the film even this side of enjoyable.

One major and very frustrating aspect of the movie came by way of the Skull Island natives. When we first meet them, they are camouflaged in the barks of several trees and, upon seeing the island’s visitors, take a defensive stance. Understandable, right? Out strolls John C. Reilly’s character, who’s befriended them after decades of living on the island, and asks them to stand down. They do. However, the entire time they have screen time, it’s Reilly who’s doing the talking. He’s talking about them, for them, and over them. Not once is a single sound emitted from the native people. Only silence. No words. At all. Even Reilly’s goodbye to them, to the people who have sheltered and protected him for twenty eight years, was half-hearted and done without an inkling of emotion. This was honestly the most terrible and insensitive choice the movie made.

Aside from some moments of actual suspense, well-executed action, and fantastic creature designs, there isn’t much that “Kong: Skull Island” has to offer. Kong is there, but he only gets two major fights while the rest of the movie is spent in a lull with a group of generally uninteresting characters who don’t even have decent interactions. It drags on for more than it should and only Kong is the one on the receiving end of any sympathy. The way the native people of the island are thrown in as nothing more than scenery is maddening and their lack of voice disrespectful. “Kong: Skull Island” isn’t the most horrible film you’ll ever see, but it’s lack of imagination and dullness is most definitely apparent throughout the film.

40%
40%
Not Good

"Kong: Skull Island" isn't the most horrible film you'll ever see, but it's lack of imagination and dullness is most definitely apparent.

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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