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Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

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It’s finally time to talk about Kong: Skull Island! I was excited to see the next movie in the Warner Bros. giant monster universe. I liked Godzilla, but I didn’t love it. I was hoping that Kong: Skull Island would give us a ton of Kong and a great popcorn movie. This cast is also amazing! Of course I love Samuel L. Jackson, but Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, and Brie Larson were also in the film with Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell, the two standouts from one of my favorites from 2015, Straight Outta Compton. This cast was insane, and it helped that it was written by the writer of Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy. The trailers showed lots of Kong, so all I really wanted out of the movie was to see him smash some helicopters and maybe rip a T-Rex in half. Is that too much to ask for? Anyways, let’s talk about the movie!

Kong: Skull Island is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Toby Kebbell, and Jason Mitchell. Explorers and an army unit head out to the legendary Bermuda Triangle-like island called Skull Island to see exactly why it’s so mystical and why transport ships seem to go missing around it. It’s not even on an officially documented map, so it’s a bit fishy. Some people believe in monsters, and some don’t, but after just one encounter with the king of Skull Island, everyone starts to believe that this is a world of monsters and humans are just playing kickball on the playground of it.

This was one of my most anticipated movies of the year, and it was mainly because I wanted to see King Kong go insane, smash lots of evil creatures, and maybe eat a giant banana or two. I guess I can say that I saw what I wanted to see. Everything involving Kong in this movie is amazing for no other reason than that it was an absolute blast. I enjoyed the heck out of this film when Kong was throwing trees at helicopters and taking bullets that only made him more upset. Eery single time he fought another monster I perked up in my seat and my eyes locked onto the screen. As meaningless and depthless as that may sound, it’s hard to deny that it’s a good time to stuff your face with popcorn and watch $200 million worth of visual effects go to work to bring a giant gorilla to life just so that he can give humans a hard time and fight other ungodly monsters. It’s pretty awesome. If you enjoy that, I think you’ll find some serious enjoyment in Kong: Skull Island. As a whole, I thought the movie was visually impressive. Most of the effects looked top-notch, and in IMAX 3D, it feels like you’re on a King Kong version of the Star Tours Disneyland ride. There are moments where I think that this movie would make a great POV ride where it actually feels like Kong picked you up and dropped you into his mouth. Visually the movie is encapsulating. I also thought it had solid performances and direction. The giant cast delivers as a whole, and there are actually a lot of great wide-shots of Kong and some great camerawork that allows you to perfectly follow most of the action. It feels as though something is happening right in front of your eyes as compared to knowing that you’re watching something that has been created on a computer, and it’s all thanks to the visual effects team and the director.

Though the scenes with Kong are 10/10 material, everything not involving Kong is pretty bad. There’s a point where we forget about Kong entirely and focus on the characters for about forty-five minutes, and I was about to lose my mind. The pacing of this film is very inconsistent, and it’s due to the fact that I either didn’t care about or hated every single character except for John C. Reilly. Again, this movie has good performances around the board, but the characters themselves are severely lacking any depth or anything to make me care about them. Brie Larson is the photographer girl, Samuel L. Jackson is the hardcore military man who only does things his way, Tom Hiddleston is the cool and collected tracker who is way too good at everything he does even though he’s never given a reason to be good at most of the things, Corey Hawkins is the smart guy, and John Goodman is the weirdo who believes in something that others don’t. That sums up everything we learn about every character. The only ones with any sort of depth are John C. Reilly’s character and Toby Kebbell’s character, and I still couldn’t tell you the names of their characters if I had to. We spend a good chunk of the movie with these people, and at no point did I find redeeming qualities, likable qualities, or meaningful motivations. They were all just good at their jobs, and the audience isn’t supposed to question it because Kong smashes stuff. Why are we excusing unlikable, thin, dumb humans with terrible writing and story structure because watching Kong smash things is fun? It’s not like we excuse it when we talk about Transformers, so why do we excuse it here? I wish I had an answer for you. Also, at some point a movie has to learn how to tribute something instead of directly copying it. There are so many shots that feel ripped directly from Apocalypse Now as well as two scenes in particular that I can think of that directly stole from Jurassic Park. Early on in the film, there is a scene where the characters emerge into a mythical place, and I was pretty sure the Jurassic Park theme was going to start playing. It didn’t, so I guess that’s good, but it was definitely an idea taken directly from Jurassic Park that doesn’t give me fond memories of the original concept or make me admire what is being done with the scene.

Overall, Kong: Skull Island will be successful, it will make money, and there is a ton of fun to be had with this film, but it’s a tale of two movies. First, we have every scene with Kong which is Grade A material and exactly what I wanted from this movie. Then, you have everything with the characters and the surrounding narrative behind Kong that is so flat, stale, and bland that I struggled to get through it. Other than John C. Reilly’s character, I couldn’t find a single person to get behind or care for through the film. They were all just really good at their professions because this terribly written screenplay called for characters who were automatically good at their professions. There are so many moments where certain characters will step into positions in which they should realistically fail, but they don’t because, you know, why give them a challenge? They’re good at everything! It never rose above a decent popcorn flick because it had no meat behind it. If you’re looking for great sequences of Kong showing why he’s king, this movie is for you. If you actually wanted depth out of this story, you could probably Redbox it or stream it right before Godzilla: King of the Monsters hits theaters. I’m going to give Kong: Skull Island a 5.2/10.

Will you be seeing Kong: Skull Island? Comment down in the comment section and let me know what you thought! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

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Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at movies@pulseradio.fm