Review: Kong: Skull Island

 
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writers: Dan Gilroy, Mas, Borenstein, Derek Conolloy
Starring: Brie Larson, Tom Hiddelston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reily, Corey Hawkins
Genre: Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Rating: PG-13
I was not expecting the traditional story of King Kong as shown in the 1933 and 2005 versions. That being said, I did expect more. I knew going in that this film was connected to the Godzilla franchise, but like Godzilla, it would have been great for the script and direction of the film to try to reach audiences beyond one-dimensional characters and stylized action.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: There are a number of jump scares and violent scenes between the Skull Crawlers, Kong, and the group. Though the action is more stylized, it can be a bit disturbing for younger audiences. 
Language/Crude Humor: The F-word is used once after coming across Kong while other profane words appear from time to time.
Spiritual Content: To the natives of Skull Island, Kong is treated like a god and worshiped so that he can keep them safe. There are multiple comparisons to Kong being a god to the natives let alone over most creatures due to his size. 
Sexual Content: There is one scene in Vietnam where John Goodman and Corey Hawkin’s characters walk into a bar which is also a brothel. Though nothing is significantly shown, one can tell what it is just by how people act and how some women are dressed.
Drug/Alcohol References: Smoking takes place in various parts and the group give a toast to their expedition with alcohol.
Other Negative Content: Other than what I have covered, nothing I can think of. 
Positive Content: Rather than seeking to kill Kong, some of the group members see Kong as not a threat but as a protector of his territory as he shows mercy a couple of times to those who don’t harm him. 

Review

Since his debut in 1933, King Kong has been a widely known monster character in cinematic history. His previous appearance in Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005) not only remained faithful to the story and mythology of the character, but also allowed for new features and depth between characters and with Kong himself, resulting in positive reviews from critics and a strong box office profit.
In director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ take on the great ape, Kong: Skull Island, though great in action, unfortunately lacks depth in its story. While it is primarily about King Kong, the human characters have to play a specific role in order to allow for a plot. Though the concept of searching and proving that monsters exist is an understandable synopsis, the story to get there rushes as each character is introduced with little to no character development or backstory. Instead, audiences are to take them as they come, nothing more.
What the 2005 King Kong did very well was capturing the audiences’ attention through disturbing and emotional moments between the humans and the creatures that lived on Skull Island. With this story, it relies more on jump scares to try to be disturbing and wild for audiences. It works on a couple of occasions but the problem with these creatures going after the group is that the group is one audiences would hardly care for.
When a film has a strong cast but weak story, it is a shame to see their potential limited by the screenplay and development let alone lack there of. If anyone of the original group that set out for Skull Island remained interesting, it was Samuel L. Jackson’s character for wanting to personally go up against Kong due to the soldier in him. Behind him is Brie Larson, which isn’t saying much but compared to the rest, her photographer character is somewhat interesting since she is the only one without a weapon.
If any character significantly stood out, it would have to be John C. Rieley’s stranded WWII pilot character, Hank Marlow. This is not to say that his acting was outstanding. His character just stood out more compared to everyone else through his humor and also the fact that the rest of the cast was very one dimensional. With the exception of him, no one else was given a backstory other than a few sentences or small conversation about what they did prior. As seen in the trailer, Reiley’s character has been on the island for years and with that comes his backstory.

What did save the film was none other than the action in it between Kong, the group, and the creatures. From man’s point of view, it looks as if Kong is at war with the humans when in reality, he is trying to protect them let alone other living creatures inhabiting the island. It is the action most would expect from a monster film which in no way was a letdown. In small moments, you can see his compassionate side as he comes into contact with the humans by simply looking at them when they are looking back directly.
That being said, the mythology of Kong always involved a woman, which symbolizes the idea of innocence still being found in this dark world of ours. In Kong: Skull Island there are only two to three short moments of this, resulting in a lack of relationship dynamics with Kong and Brie Larson. In no way was there an expectation for this Kong to be as traditional as the previous versions. That being said, it tried too hard to be its own version as it ignored significant classic, traditional traits that are the core of the mythos.
One can give the argument that Kong: Skull Island was similar to Godzilla (2014) in the fact that it focused a large amount of screen time on the humans and that was still enjoyable. The loophole in that statement is that the story in Godzilla actually had relatable characters with backstories and had depth in the plot as a whole. It comes to no surprise that this film was produced solely to enter into the franchise of the Godzilla vs. Kong and to return to the monster movie era. If you’re looking for a a good action film, you may find in Kong: Skull Island to be fairly enjoyable. However, if you’re a fan of the 1933 classic and the 2005 remake, then you may not enjoy this new version.
 

Positives

+ Action packed

Negatives

- Lack of depth and storytelling - One dimensional characters - Character development - Predictable dialogue and motivations

The Bottom Line

Overall, Kong: Skull Island was enjoyable for the fighting but that is as far as it will go. Due to how much it lacked in the characters and story, the film isn't that significant compared for previous Kong film. One would enjoy it for the action but if they are expecting a traditional King Kong, they won't kind it here.

 

6.5

Trey Soto

Trey Soto holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from Biola University, emphasis in Interpersonal/Rhetorical Theory. He has been a Film Critic/Analysis for over a year at Geeks Under Grace and other websites such as Temple of Geek. In his spare time, he enjoys comic book literature, screenwriting, production assistant freelancing, photography, cosplay, and hosting his own film podcast T.V. Trey on Podbean and iTunes.

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