Kong: Skull Island follows a team of explorers, scientists and soldiers in search of a mysterious, unexplored island. Upon reaching the island, they are exposed to monstrous creatures, one in particular resembles a giant ape named Kong by the local tribe. The group must survive the onslaught of monsters in order to escape the island. Along the way, their perspective on whether Kong is friend or foe is put into question and causes a strong divide in the group of survivors.
Kong: Skull Island Review
As goes the trend, KSI is yet another remake of a popular franchise. However, as is also the trend, this reboot is set to embark on the ambitious venture of establishing a cinematic universe centered around the classic Kaiju of Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and the like. Bringing Kong into the fray, we delve further into the world initially conceived in the 2014 American reboot of Godzilla. So through that lens...you can look at KSI and see that it's basically Batman vs. Superman meets Peter Jackon's King Kong. It's almost a 50/50 blend between the two. That sounds stupid, and for sections of the film it is, but for a portion of the film we get at least a surface-level of entertainment.
I have to commend director Jordan Vogt-Roberts for what he was able to get out of a sub-par script. The writing regressed as the film progressed, like the writers did a cramming session in one night and were losing cognitive function at an exponential rate. We have decent character development towards the beginning, establishing a cast that is familiar, but still enjoyable. Unfortunately, as did the script gradually collapse, so did the directing and cinematography. The visual treatment, camera work and intricately-crafted scenes in the first two acts were fantastic, reminding me of a Guy Ritchie protege at times. But then...it dilutes into what has become a muddied landscape of predictable CG combat.
But then the film just seems to go into decline as the cast traverses the island, about when John C Reilly comes into the picture. I actually consider this more coincidence than anything, as, while Reilly's character feels out of place at times, he doesn't project near as much camp as the rest of the film does from that point forward.
I wasn't expecting a substance-based, slow-burner like Godzilla, but I wasn't expecting Peter Jackson to so heavily influence this film either. Let's review the similarities... 1. Kong spends most of his time fighting a particular foe that equates to an armless tyrannosaurus rex (I was never impressed with that creature design since the trailers anyways)... 2. We have our diverse cast spending a good portion of their island visit trying to survive ridiculously large, grotesque insects and arachnids in the most brutally violent ways that PG-13 can take... 3. We have John Goodman slowly devolving into Jack Black's character from King Kong, which was perhaps the greatest disappointment of the film, for my love of John Goodman has only grown from Fallen to 10 Cloverfield Lane.
There are other Kong tropes, but many could be argued as staples of the Kong persona, so I won't mention them...but I think you get the point. The Vietnam War setting was an interesting perspective and it took advantage of the island's dangers to parallel the war. If this hasn't been done countless times before, it might be considered impressive, but a metaphor for 'Nam is as fresh as a fist-pulped horse corpse (preemptive copyright on that term).
There were just so many cinematic moments that I thought were notably attractive, they just weren't consistent throughout and significantly trailed off as the film moved on. One scene that has already been previously addressed throughout the web was considered a "nod to Cannibal Holocaust". I didn't know the exact scene before watching the film, but while watching it was very apparent to which scene they were referring. While it certainly looks like an homage to the internationally infamous faux-snuff film, I am unaware of any knowledge that it was a specific reference to that film. If it was, it feels incredibly random for a PG-13 film with a target audience far-separated in age and time from Cannibal Holocaust. So, if anything, such a nod is awkwardly placed. Regardless...
Many of the shots of Kong himself made me reminisce about Shadow of the Colossus. Some scenes seemed like shot-for-shot replacements of the lumbering beasts with Kong. In my opinion, this is an underrated attribute of the film, as few things in media have established a sense of power and grandeur like SOTC, and such methods are under-utilized. However, these scenes were few and far between, sprinkled sparingly around action sequences that are, finally, jading this reviewer. I feel like I've seen it all. Which is why, perhaps, I defend the 2014 Godzilla film...for while it may be frustratingly absent of large-scale action sequences, it successfully draws the viewer in to the big moments when they appear, to much greater effect.
KSI is a great low-substance summer blockbuster. It's little more than an expensive filler movie, laying the groundwork for the films we'll "really want to see" down the line. The carelessness and dismissive treatment of some of the characters and the plot's progress does little to get me excited for what's to come, but at the same time, there wasn't anything I didn't at least minutely expect that would prevent me from seeing future installments.
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 5/10