Kong’s Semi-Triumphant Return to the Big Screen

Kong roars back into theaters in the new monster epic Kong: Skull Island.

Kong: Skull Island is a sloppy, overstuffed CGI Fest that has enough well made action scenes to be an enjoyable and exciting film.  It was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly.  This movie centers on an expedition to Kong Island, a newly discovered island, which is the home of many mythical monsters, including King Kong.  A group of military officials and scientists go to the island to investigate it and set into action a series of events that causes widespread chaos on the island. 

The major flaws in this movie stem from a poorly done screenplay and spotty direction.  The screenplay does not provide this movie with actual characters.  Sure, there are people on the screen, but the character development for these people is non-existent.  This not only wastes a terrific cast, but also takes the emotion out of the parts of the movie where the people’s lives are threatened by monsters.  It is extremely difficult to care about these characters because of their limited backgrounds or characterization. This same problem plagued 2014’s Godzilla, suggesting that these monster movies are simply not putting enough emphasis on their characters.   

For example, Tom Hiddleston’s character as one of the leads in the movie literally consists of him being strong and a good jungle guide.  It is clear he serves some usefulness to the story, but there is no emotional weight behind the character, making it difficult for viewers to care.  This goes for all of the other characters in the story as well, with the possible exception of John C. Reilly’s character who is not only funny, but also has a developed backstory regarding his family back at home.  

Kong is also mishandled in the script.  Yes, Kong doesn’t talk, but that doesn’t mean that the movie can’t build a character around him.  In Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong, Kong established an emotional bond with the female lead and protected her throughout the movie. However, in this new rendition, little attention is paid to giving Kong this emotional weight.  He is still an extremely enjoyable presence in the action scenes, but the layers to his character are not there.  

The final issue with the script is the jokes.  Other than a couple rare instances with John C. Reilly’s character, the jokes in this movie feel forced and awkward.  This may have been caused by the continued demand for comedy in big budget action movies (see Marvel), but in this instance they should have avoided it.  

The direction is also an issue in some parts of the movie.  The pacing in the buildup to reach Skull Island is very slow.  They attempted to use this time to build the characters, but as mentioned earlier, this wasn’t really executed and that is partly due to the overstuffed cast with too many “lead” characters.  

However, some of the direction was very good.  The Vietnam theme along with 70’s Apocalypse Now-esque music hit the right tone for the movie, and the action scenes were directed extremely well. Roberts uses long, panned out takes to show the entire scene as it evolves.  The shots in these scenes allow the audience to witness the sheer enormity of Kong and the monsters he was fighting.   

The best part of this movie by far was the action scenes.  One large complaint in 2014’s Godzilla was that Godzilla wasn’t in the movie enough and didn’t appear until very late in the movie.  But, that wasn’t the case here since Kong appears quickly and is a presence throughout.  The size of both Kong and the other beasts makes the action sequences extremely exciting because the stakes are so high.  It also helps that these scenes focus less on the humans and more on the monsters.  

For fans of this movie or Kong in general, there is more to look forward to in 2020’s crossover with Godzilla titled Godzilla vs. Kong

Grade: B- 

I would recommend the movie if you like this type of mindless action movie about monsters with little character development because the action is incredible. However, if you feel that these movies also require strong characters and dialogue, then I would not recommend the film. 

Source: IMDB

Photo Source: flickr

Photo License: Creativecommons