Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
If it hadn’t have been for the wonderful John C. Reilly (his beard, his humor, that adorable crease between his eye sockets), Kong: Skull Island would have gone the way of nearly every character on its convoluted storyboard; it would have died a horrible and embarrassing death. I guess what also saved it was our commitment to enjoying this franchise, something we’ve proven as audiences, that no matter what kind of Kong movie is released, we will most assuredly sit down in front of a screen to watch it and we will find entertainment in a giant ape, even if the actually product should lead us to a different reaction. In that sense, Skull Island is no different than the rest; an action movie with Kong as an odd sort of hero and a film we want to watch despite its poorer properties.
As the Vietnam conflict ends, the United States looks to step away from armed affairs and risky missions, so if Bill Randa wants one more funded adventure, it’s now or never. He and his team have located a previously uncharted island that they would like to explore, for geological purposes, or so they tell the brass, but for far more dangerous reasons in reality. They put together a team, fight their way through storms in attack helicopters to reach the island, and proceed to blast charges throughout the jungle to see what info they can dig up. Well, a giant gorilla answers the call, much to the astonishment of the party, destroying everything in his path. Now the soldiers and scientists will have to find their way to a rally point on foot in order to be extracted, but first they’ll have to face the inhabitants of this hellish place, natives who are large, lizardy, and like to be left alone.
JCR really was the highlight of the film, and perhaps the only actor who wasn’t 100% replaceable. He brought comedy and charisma to a story that desperately needed it, arriving at just the right time to save the day. In the movie’s defense, it did start with a bang, Kong making an appearance earlier than I thought he would and the indiscriminate killing beginning right away. They didn’t play around with fans, at least, they gave us the gorilla and his giant power early and often, allowing pure size to awe us when very little else would. And the cinematography to go along with the creature was actually awesome, wicked visuals popping out around every corner. So Skull Island had one great actor, multiple colossal monsters, and some eye-candy shots, but, unfortunately, what it lacked might be what sticks with us the longest.
Every single character, apart from JCR’s downed pilot, was absolutely interchangeable and replaceable. They could have made any role the lead one, any dude the tough one, any broad the quick one, and I doubt we would have noticed. Bad writing plagued the film throughout, never more apparent in how it made a wonderful actress like Brie Larson unnecessary or an iconic figure like Samuel L. Jackson horribly one-note. Any paid professional could have stepped in, rattled off the lines, stood still in front of a green screen, and delivered us the same product; basically, there was nothing original to grasp when the story started to stumble and fall. I was impressed by the visuals, and, more than that, I was satisfied by them. I was satisfied in my desire to see Kong, to be entertained by fantasy/horror action, so I didn’t leave disappointed. But, as a critic, I needed a little more, and it just wasn’t there.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆