TheLordofMOO’s review published on Letterboxd:
Going into this, I really didn’t know what to expect; I was receiving widely, conflicting reactions from different people who usually tend to have similar opinions. Though, having seen the movie now, I can confidently say that I enjoyed it very much for what it was: a B-monster movie.
KONG SKULL ISLAND has all the same strengths and weaknesses of any monster movie ever made. Sure, every now and then you’ll get a film in the realm of Peter Jackson’s ‘King Kong,’ but usually you can expect these movies to hover around the same quality of a ‘Pacific Rim’ or a ‘Cloverfield.’ In other words, you can expect a movie that lives up to the ‘monster’ part and drops the ball on the ‘human’ side of things. And that’s exactly what we get here.
Gareth Edward’s ‘Godzilla’ was a shaky kick off to Legendary Pictures’ new, expansive MonsterVerse. Some liked it, but most people were mixed on it. What puts KONG: SKULL ISLAND over 2014’s ‘Godzilla,’ for me anyway, is that we actually get to see Kong in all his glory. The film doesn’t show a glimpse of his feet and then quickly cut to a kid sitting on a couch, watching the whole thing transpire on a television set.
I’m sure you've heard by now the characters in this movie aren’t the best. The script disservices a pretty spectacular cast and, other than John C. Reilly, who was ironically the guy I was worried about the most from the trailers, everyone is pretty much wasted here. This is not to say the actors do a bad job per se, they're just not given that much to do. The movie is juggling too many characters, which inhibits it from focusing on a few and fleshing those select few out.
Samuel Jackson stands out in the worst possible way; he was easily the most disappointing of the cast. He felt like he was in a whole other movie. His character had the vaguest motivation of anyone, which is really saying something, and he kept making questionable decisions. I get it; he’s a man who’s been so burned out by a senseless war that violence is all he knows anymore. The problem is that the movie doesn’t spend nearly enough time on him in order to fully realize his character and give him a proper arc. John Goodman’s character here was nearly the same as his character from ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ except not as subtle or developed. He was, in my eyes, the most essential of the human characters in telling this particular story, and yet the movie misuses him. Tom Hiddleston, who I always like, didn't quite work as a leading man here, and Brie Larson, who is a wonderful actress, delivers a serviceable performance for a one-dimensional character. As I alluded to before, John C. Reilly was the one human character I actually cared about. He was the heart of the movie. With an effective backstory and enough character depth for the audience to grasp on to, John C. Reilly's character is one of the main reasons I swayed positive on this movie. Also, how is it that he, the ‘crazy’ one, is the only person on the island capable of making rational decisions?
But the biggest reason behind why I ended up liking this movie, despite its flaws, was because of Kong himself. He has more nuance and humanity than all the humans combined. I understood the point of view of a 100-foot ape more so than members of my own species; this can either be seen as a good thing, which I personally took it as, or a bad thing, which is perfectly reasonable as well.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND is first and foremost a creature feature, and it brings it’s A-game on that front. If it had disappointed on the ‘monster’ part of the equation, I would have no hesitation in calling this a complete failure. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint; rather, it exceeded expectations. The designs of the different creatures we see on the island were all inventive and memorable. Action sequences were another highlight. The initial helicopter scene with Kong was one of the most intense action scenes in recent memory; I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. There was another scene involving a camera flash that I thought was really creative. And lastly, the fights between Kong and the “skullcrawlers,’ as John C. Reilly so eloquently puts it, are beautifully staged and executed, which leads into the film’s VFX.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND has some of the best VFX I’ve ever seen. The beautiful and stunning cinematography, which is a rare treat for a blockbuster of this magnitude, does nothing but complement the incredible visual effects displayed on screen. But it’s not just a visual masterwork, the sound in this movie, which is not something I usually notice, is fantastic. When Kong is pounding his chest I could feel my bones vibrating. All the technical aspects of the movie combine to create a fun, fast-paced, and immersive cinematic experience that I won’t forget anytime soon.
Some people are complaining about the cheesy dialogue, but cheesy dialogue is a given with these kinds of monster flicks. In fact, I prefer cheesy dialogue to serious, over-dramatic dialogue for a movie like this. KONG: SKULL ISLAND knows what it is and it doesn’t try to be anything more. However, the problem I had with the dialogue was how trimmed down and overly efficient it was. There was no interesting or natural character flourishes integrated into the script; the dialogue seemed like it was carefully synthesized in a scientific laboratory with the sole purpose of driving the plot forward.
As for the plot, it is spread incredibly thin; there’s an abundance of unanswered questions and blanks that the movie has no intention of filling in. However, I still enjoyed the subtle world building and ties to ‘Godzilla’ even if I was expecting a little bit more of a foundation to the particular story being told.
No one will deny that there are glaring issues with the script and characters; these issues are what prevent me from calling KONG: SKULL ISLAND a ‘great movie,’ however I have no problem with calling it a great ‘B monster movie.’ If you watch it expecting a film on the level of Peter Jackson’s ‘King Kong,’ then you’ll be disappointed, there’s no other way of putting it. But if you go in anticipating a fun time at the movies then you’ll get a fun time at the movies. Make sure to experience it in the grandest way possible because the film’s strengths lie in its visuals and sound.
Also, don’t forget to stick around until after the credits. You might just find a little surprise waiting there.