Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Richard Jenkins, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Marc Evan Jackson, and John C. Reilly
Run Time: 118 Minutes
Studios: Legendary Pictures (Godzilla), Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget: 185 million dollars [the new 150 million, which was the new 100 million]
Review: King Kong (2005) is one of my all-time favourite movies. On re-watch I noticed the several benefits that come from the singular creative vision that Peter Jackson’s Wingnut films brought to that film. It had the distinctive look of a Norman Rockwell painting, had a throwback vibe (per its 1930’s setting), was slower paced in parts than most blockbusters and had Oscar-winning special f/x (in a tough year no less) with Andy Serkis motion capturing Kong the movie still has a strong identity. 12 years later, Skull Island maintains a slightly different look than its blockbuster contemporaries with a yellow-orange tinged colour palette, [reminiscent of chief influence Apocalypse Now one character is even named] but the rest falls on basic card of Hollywood blockbuster Bingo.
Lets go through the motions. #1 You have an under-qualified indie-director doing a blockbuster as his sophomore film, same as; The Amazing Spider-Man, Jurassic World and Godzilla. Plucked to direct a larger than life 185 million dollar budgeted film [same number as Star Trek: Beyond & X-Men: Apocalypse]. The movie were aims to be the next hopeful stop on a franchise train [like Doctor Strange, and The Legend of Tarzan], or a shared universe [like Deadpool & Civil War]. Additionally the film sports at least three screenwriters, similar to Logan, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Assassin’s Creed for story composition, shooting script, and a rewrite polish a process sure to sand down any edges the film might have, and its complete with an indistinct score likely made from a temp track that sounds like every other movie of its time. It’s also co-financed by China Oh and there’s a post-credits stinger teasing the next film in the series. Whether or not you enjoy Kong comes down to how much you enjoy most blockbuster movies nowadays.
I enjoyed Kong: Skull Island despite its predictability. It’s difficult to argue how smooth the ride is. Among the merits of the movie is its casting which makes up for the lack of characterization by having recognizable or at least prolific actors in several roles which made me feel more attached to them. Actors like Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), and John Ortiz (Fast & Furious) aren’t given a whole lot to do other than act nervous around CGI, but its nice to see them get work. The action scenes are clear and well staged; particularly a fortification sequence set in a skull graveyard that balances exactly the tone the movie is going for, with its standout colours and tounge-in-cheek badassery, it goes on for just as long as it needs to and has style. It’s not too memorable, its by the numbers, but those numbers are solid.
Tom Hiddleston continues to prove he shouldn’t be a lead actor, Brie Larson doesn’t get much to do other than collect a paycheck, John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson are old pros and they seem to know exactly what kind of movie they’re in and how to act opposite effects. As a somewhat odd but effective addition, Toby Kebbell who has been giving great performances in middling CGI adventures for this entire decade (Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and Wrath of the Titans) plays his small role as a downed GI cut off from everyone else oddly serious and somewhat contemplative that its surprising he makes so much out of it, balancing the kill everything that moves attitude of Jackson and the live and let live motivations of Hiddleston its a thankless part that nonetheless stood out to me and was more impactful than say John Goodman’s role.
This is a movie that was made to make money, but fortunately no one here completely phones it in, everybody puts in their time from an inexperienced director proving surprisingly handy with effects, to game character actors and some sound technical work. Its worth watching just to see where Hollywood is at right now but beyond a few set pieces there’s not much more to look at.
Tidbit: How are 2 impassive creatures such as Godzilla and Kong going to fight each other in 2020? The film still doesn’t have an answer to its Batman V. Superman style dilemma.