An evenly uneven non-remake – Kong: Skull Island movie review

Kong’s latest leap to the big screen sees him remain on his home-turf of Skull Island, as opposed to previous films where he’s been captured and dragged back to New York (because that always works wonderfully). Of course, no film will ever be able to capture that unique feeling the original King Kong created but Skull Island does manage to do something unique, it’s managed to create something evenly uneven.

By evenly uneven, I mean that if every film’s quality was measured with a set of scales, Skull Island piles 20 tonne weights onto both trays. There’s an even balance of good ideas and great technical achievement on the left side and king-sized (pun-intended) writing ticks and performance qualms on the right.

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Any guesses who’s in charge?

For those who don’t know the tale of the original Kong, don’t worry. Skull Island doesn’t follow that story. Government agent Bill Randa (the always brilliant John Goodman) demands a higher government authority that he’s provided a military escort -because they’re handing those out like free samples- to an uncharted island where he and his colleagues will hopefully find something before the Russians do? I can’t remember their excuse.

Surprise, surprise, John Goodman’s military escort (led by Samuel L. Jackson and accompanied by Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston) arrive on the island to discover that there’s a wallop-of-an-ape known as Kong who rules it. Kong destroys a few of their helicopters, they all get separated, John Goodman reveals he knew it was there all along, they all fight for their lives, we see more fictional creatures than I would’ve preferred, etc, etc, etc.

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Good aspects on the left, bad aspects on the right, John C. Reilly representing the absolute best aspect caught in the middle.

Back to Kong being evenly uneven, let’s look at the good guff;

  1. Kong looks stunning. The other fictional creatures look pretty good too but I don’t care about them because KONG.
  2. This movie looks great. The cinematography (and story) was heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now and it shows because a lot of the daytime shots ooze beautiful orange.
  3. John C. Reilly is fantastic. His character is written and portrayed so well that whenever he’s even suggested to be near the camera, he’s stealing the scene.
  4. The soundtrack pulls together the best of every Vietnam war film (everything BUT For What It’s Worth) and somehow manages to push all of it into Skull Island.
  5. There are some great directing decisions which I would like to analyse in a video once the DVD comes out.
  6. I may be mis-interpreting things here but Skull Island felt like one big analogy for the Vietnam war. I won’t go into further detail because like I said, I may be mis-interpreting things here.
  7. There were other assorted mini-things I liked which I won’t go into detail on.
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More of this please.

Now let’s look at the bad guff;

  1. Quite a few shots lacked depth, especially ones with Kong. A majority of the shots felt flat and that really annoyed me considering the budget they had for this was something upward of 150 million.
  2. Many of the character’s were either unnecessary, undeveloped or both. For example, Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson could’ve just disappeared. It felt like Hiddleston’s character was shoehorned in at the last minute just so they could have someone like Tom Hiddleston in the film. And Brie Larson, despite providing the one anti-war character in the film, had this arc with the ape which felt tragically forced and way too cheesy for intended impact.
  3. There were too many characters for me to care about and because of this, I didn’t care about anyone surviving. For a large portion of the film, they’d executed very creative ways of telling the audience that someone died so if anything, I was keen for more characters to get offed just to see how it was shot.
  4. As well as there being too many human characters, there were also too many creatures. I was absolutely fine with stretching my disbelief for the titular ape but then the script decides to throw in these tree-spider things, “skull-crawlers” and the like. Did the writers just never learn that less is more?
  5. Other assorted mini-issues which I won’t go into detail on.
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Can you name a single one of these characters? Me neither.

Weighing those lists together, I do find myself thinking that Kong: Skull Island is evenly uneven but in actuality, this scale may be leaning the wrong way. It’s just not anything we haven’t seen before. When an original idea comes with some hiccups I’ll still lean positively because the idea was original but when you use the classic Kong to produce a homage/rip-off of many other films, I feel he deserves better. Kong deserves better.

What did you think of Kong: Skull Island? Was Kong ever meant to be remade? Should John C. Reilly play God next?

Whatever your thoughts, leave your comment below, sign up to this blog on the side and don’t forget to check out my second page for video games HERE.

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