After the abysmal disappointment that was Godzilla 2014, I was rightfully skeptical over what exactly Legendary would do to another cinematic monster that left an impact on film history. Although I’ve never been a fan of King Kong I was still interested to see the premise set against the backdrop of the 1970’s Vietnam aesthetic. The result turned out to be an entertaining retelling complimented by the talent of Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly. Monster carnage is well choreographed and cleanly visible to the eye versus hiding it in darkness or close up. However, Skull Island’s quality is hampered by amateurish mistakes. Several times the camera cuts to uncomfortable close ups of faces or transitions to out of place slow motion, both of which feel comedic rather than dramatic. The soundtrack is constantly reminding you that the film takes place in the 70s by taking every opportunity to play late 60’s/early 70’s classic rock. The characters’ objectives and mission plan are quickly run through in a by-the-book fashion. This is what you need to do, this is why you cant call for help, this is where your last chance of escape will be, etc.
Despite Kong’s success over Godzilla in its interesting characters department, it follows in its footsteps of removing them from the story way too soon. Bryan Cranston, despite being the most intriguing character in 2014, quickly becomes a short written afterthought in the movie. The same goes for John Goodman, who like Cranston, plays a slightly crazed scientist bent on discovering ancient life on Earth, and yet is quickly written out. Why doesn’t Legendary have the balls to make their monster movies focus on characters in the science and archeology department? Give me an Avengers team starring John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, and hell, give me Sam Neill as a paleontologist again! Or are those actors just for the senior crowds whereas Tom Hiddelston and Brie Larson are there for “my generation.” The marketing department aura around this is disgustingly palpable.
Speaking of Brie Larson, despite my love of her performance and capable talent in Room, she sleepwalks through the whole film. Her role as an anti-war photographer is as far as her character goes with zero redeeming qualities or developments. Her dialogue sounds as if she’s effortlessly reading from the script, to the point where Sam Jackson calls her out on it. A final grievance with the film is the irritating tendency to explain every detail that would be better unspoken. Although John C. Reilly gives a likable performance, it wasn’t necessary for him to explain the mythos of Kong and the island. Score the scene with atmospheric music and have the characters look upon the ancient paintings in silence so I can feel what they feel and decipher the mystery. Don’t sit me down in a classroom and give a lecture.
Though there are definite highlights in regards to the acting talent and monster battles, I can’t fully recommend Skull Island. For fans of monster movies or those who wish to see a King Kong that escapes the poor final act in New York from the original and Jackson’s remake, I’d suggest a potential viewing.