Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island ★★★

Without a doubt, the act of watching a film like Kong: Skull Island should be accompanied by adjustment of expectations. Much like Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim and Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, both of which I happened to like a lot, this film is best viewed as nothing more than a harmless spectacle capable of tickling your gland of film nerdiness.

Interestingly, Jordan Vogt-Roberts' transition from small-scale indie coming-of-age mindset to a universe of big special-effects driven entertainment turned out to be more fruitful than I had originally expected. His idea of a creature feature is a heightened, visually rich, stylised play on the genre that harkens back to Toho films and retains stunning levels of playfulness with its inspirations, which occasionally take the film into the universe of 70's exploitation. In fact, Kong: Skull Island would be the closest to what a Tony Scott-directed CGI-driven blockbuster would probably look like.

Unfortunately, the film has at least one major flaw and it has something to do with the studio attempting to confine it into a shared universe of interconnected movies (Oh, how I now despise this phrase. O tempora! O mores!). It has to do with the fact Kong: Skull Island suffers from a very common condition blockbusters are diagnosed with, called the saggy second act syndrome. Although the film wows with its visual flair and tightly blocked set pieces in its opening and final acts, the space between them is, sadly, filled with tedium and superfluous plot, whose purpose doesn't serve the story proper as much as it attempts to plant seeds for future films. As a result, a hefty chunk of the running time is simply boring.

Now, there are at least three major ways to handle the second act in a big budget film: through plot, character development, a dramatic set piece, or any combination of the above. For example, Steven Spielberg would typically rely on character development augmented by a massive set piece, while Michael Bay and most Marvel productions would emphasise plot. Notably, by relying heavily on an intense action set piece, George Miller managed to almost abandon the three act structure and turned Mad Max: Fury Road into one big action sequence, which is what made that film stand out so proudly.

Much to my dismay, Kong: Skull Island by going almost purely for plot machinations, deflates completely and irreperably damages the final act spectacle, which on its own was quite outstanding and awe-inspiring.

Perhaps it is a King Kong curse of sorts, as I remember Peter Jackson's film having similar issues, but something tells me I have the current trends in cinematic entertainment to thank for. Honestly, Kong: Skull Island is a case of great potential for an entertaining blockbuster squandered irreversibly by commitments to establishing a bigger cow to milk.

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