Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong standing right front of the sun, near the hills and Soliders chasing him in the water.
Ape-ocalypse Now

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly

One can't fault director Jordan Vogt-Roberts for attempting something different. The best known King Kong films tend to follow the same basic plot, that to see it buck the trend is rather refreshing. Set in the year 1973, U.S Government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) charts a mission to an uncharted island, known as "Skull Island". Accompanied by scientists, military men, adventurers and a photographer, the team journey onto the island, only to be attacked by Kong.

Sharing a universe with Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, the first two entries into Universal's MonsterVerse, it's curious how much this feels like the opposite of the 2014 monster movie. The key difference lies in how the monster reveals are handled. While the former preferred to build up the tension and suspense before showing the titular monster, akin to what Steven Spielberg successfully did in Jaws, Vogt-Roberts isn't interested with that. From very early on, we've been given a good look at Kong, who casts a massive shadow with his towering presence.

When it comes to well developed characters worth caring about, Godzilla merely had Bryan Cranston. Yet, that's one more character than we're given in this script, by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly. The ensemble we follow are written in the most lacking and paper thin of ways, as the script favours them delivering awful dialogue, as opposed to actually getting to know them. Toby Kebbell's character is the most glaring example of this. All we get to know about him is how he's a father, and this is expected to be enough to care for him.

Image result for kong skull island youtube
While Tom Hiddleston may as well be the films lead, his character is the very definition of derivative. A mixture of clichés for the mysterious loner character, complete with unfortunate backstory and random sword skills, it's hard to get on board when he's written so thinly. The body count may rise, and in some particularly grisly ways, but it's a struggle to care about their fates.

Although, it must be said, the assembled cast do a terrific job, livening up their dull, underwritten roles. Brie Larson brings a great deal of determination and likability to her role, while the ever reliable Samuel L. Jackson sells his maddening thirst for vengeance rather well. From his appear, John C. Reilly feels as though he's from an entirely different film, which may have something to do with him being the films best part. If anything, a film surrounding his character would've been much more interesting.

There is one element where the picture spectacularly delivers, and that's the monster action. It's clearly shown why Kong is King, as he demolishes helicopters with such ferocity, and thrillingly partakes in battles with such savagery. The creatures inhabiting Skull Island are visually well done, especially in regards to the adversaries named SkullCrawlers. They have a simplistic, yet effective design that sells their menace, with a smoke covered graveyard encounter particularly standing out.

Even though the cast put terrific performances into their characters, Kong: Skull Island suffers from a disinterest in actually getting to know them, or having a reason to care for what happens to them. In spite of the flaws, the result is a rip-roaring fun time, packed with as much giant ape action as one would wish to see.