Movie Review | Kong: Skull Island
Movie Summary: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden. (IMDb)
What can you really say about Kong: Skull Island? It’s almost a film that defies any real criticism because it’s not really trying to be anything more than a Seventies-set B-movie starring one of the most famous monsters in all of film history.
Then again, as depicted in the film, Kong is only monstrous in size, rather than behaviour. Yes, there are people killed by him, but only for a reason that I won’t give away here. This B-movie creature has far more going on than simply smashing stuff and blowing things up.
The biggest praise for the film has to go to its looks – there are some shots that are incredibly beautiful and almost instantly iconic. It helps that the director is deliberately paying visual homage to Vietnam war films, and that aesthetic combined with a creature like Kong works magically.
I’m trying to avoid moving on to the actual human cast here, mainly because none of them really work that well. This isn’t a slight against the actors’ performances in any way, but most of them are kept one-dimensional and those given any depth don’t seem to be in the right film for the role.
Take Tom Hiddleston’s character, James Conrad – for such a shallow action film, he’s trying so hard to give the character some real depth, nuance and emotion that it becomes a little awkward. The action’s big and brash, but Conrad never rises to that level. Hiddleston auditioning for Bond maybe?
Then there’s Brie Larson’s photographer, Mason Weaver. Again, like Hiddleston, she’s an excellent actor and gives a fantastic performance, but for a different film. She’s not a love interest, a femme fatale or a damsel in distress - which is to be applauded - but Weaver feels like she would get on well with characters from a smarter film than this.
Now this isn’t to play into the meme of being ‘almost too good’, but this film required the kind of performance that the amazing Alan Rickman gave in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; something larger than life, fun, and still interesting.
I think the director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, saw that he was getting some great work from Hiddleston and Larson, but only encouraged them to continue with their nuanced takes rather than saying ‘guys, relax and have some fun – it’s a creature feature!’
The one main actor that does seem to get what kind of film he’s in and acting accordingly is Samuel L Jackson. It’s actually quite a dark role and interesting to see from Jackson, but even with how threatening his character eventually proves, he still carries that little bit of exuberance in his performance to let you know not to take things too seriously and enjoy the ride.
Lastly, there’s John C Reilly who goes almost full-blown cartoon character with his World War 2 survivor. He drops the other side of the fence to Hiddleston and Larson, treating the plot like a roller-coaster ride, whooping and hollering the entire way.
It’s a bit of a mish-mash then regarding performances, with maybe the director taking a little of the blame for not advising his actors how to fit their performances with the movie’s overall tone.
The other characters are so incidental and one-note that they actually fit perfectly – because of the their relative lack of depth, certain personality traits are exaggerated and are exactly what the film needs.
When it comes down to it, Kong: Skull Island is a fun film that will certainly keep you entertained for the duration, but you will probably come away with the same nagging sensation that it just didn’t quite work as it was meant to – no matter how gorgeous it is.