When Godzilla (2014) was a big box office success in China, the powers that be said “You know what will make a billion dollars??? Godzilla vs Kong!” Spoiler alert, if you didn’t know the film Kong: Skull Island is setting the stage for a battle of Goliaths soon to come in 2-3 years because what good is your film if it doesn’t have a cinematic universe attached to it. It’s been 12 years since Kong got a shot at the big screen in King Kong (2005) and hopefully, there is no stupid love angle to drag this movie down like the last one.
Kong: Skull Island begins with an American and Japanese pilot fighting each other on Skull Island during WWII when their brawl is broken up by a 100-foot giant gorilla. Fast forward 28 years to 1973, right after the end of the Vietnam War, government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are looking to create a team for an expedition to the Island. None of the members are prepared for what they are in for. Almost immediately the entire fleet is attacked by Kong who wipes out most of the Military with ease. With only a few characters and expensive actors left alive, the team must plot an escape from the Island, but not everyone is willing to leave without avenging the loss of the dead.
Less is more, there are WAY too many characters for this movie. The amount of big stars not only overinflated the budget but overinflated the story as well. If you were one of the people who thought Godzilla spent too much time on human characters and not enough on Godzilla, well odds are you won’t enjoy this film either because it’s 10x worse in that aspect. The characters are given about Tweet’s worth of character development and they are told to just run with it for the rest of the film. So essentially what you have is three different narratives being bounced around like a ping-pong game making it hard to connect with anyone. Too many subplots, it’s hard to tell if they are pushing an anti-war message, or a vengeance story or a half-assed scientific adventure. At least Godzilla kept its story centralized in a handful of characters so that the story flowed better, but here you forget that the star of this film is supposed to be Kong.
As far as the effects go, the look for Kong is pretty damn good. The problem with the other monster’s design is that you felt like they could have done more but chose not to. The giant Yak looks amazing and the giant spider was the most creative boss fight in the film. However, they didn’t go further with the creativity of an island of giant monsters as they should have. Even the big boss Skullcrawler who they hype up doesn’t appear until 15 minutes before the end credits. That monster was a letdown as it didn’t look much different from the smaller ones.
I found myself second-guessing many decisions that were made on the creative side after the movie. The screenwriting holds this film back the most; Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson were simply not interesting enough to keep the central focus of the film on them. John C. Reilly is there to be comedy relief and deliver exposition. Samuel L Jackson is just a crazy military guy and everyone else is there to either die or fix the plane boat. One head-scratching scene involved a ‘sacrifice’ when one of the military guys kills himself to save the group, but utterly fails, it was completely out of place. He had no real reason to blow himself up and instead of being a hero, he gets easily taken out.
Kong: Skull Island turns into an empty spectacle when it’s all said and done. Most people watching this film just want to see Kong destroy a bunch of giant monsters and I don’t feel like they won’t get enough of that despite the really cool fatality he performs at the end. Visuals are by far the best thing about this film. But the character development brings it down, especially for Kong. I mean, if you are using this to build a match up against Godzilla, We need to have a great understanding of what he is all about, especially since he won’t see him again for 3 years. It may be too early to say this, but King Kong might only be the second-best movie about Apes this year.