It’s hard to believe that the legendary, building-sized ape known as King Kong has been with us for almost one hundred years. Kong was one of the earliest giant monster movies to be made, and quickly became a cultural icon. The character has been seen countless times in other franchise, a series of sequels and parodies, and two remakes in 1976 and 2005. Now, as apart of their new MonsterVerse franchise, Legendary Pictures brings a brand new version of the iconic primate in Kong: Skull Island.
Set in 1973, the film follows William Randa (John Goodman), a man who is a part of a government organization known as Monarch, created to prove the existence of monsters. He hires Vietnam veteran James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), and a group of soldiers and scientists to map out a newly discovered island in the South Pacific. When they arrive, their exploration is cut short by an attack from a massive, hundred-foot tall gorilla known as Kong. Split into two groups, the whole team must fight to survive the island’s vicious flora and fauna in order to escape.
Let me start this review by giving a brief summary of what I thought of the 2014 Godzilla film, since this film is a prequel. Godzilla was a fantastic movie. It has great visuals, well-made action sequences, great performances, and a brilliant sense of suspense. I thought the move to not show Godzilla and the MUTOs fully was a great way to build the suspense of the situation. The fact that this movie acted as a thriller rather than an action film made it a very unique monster movie.
Now, well I did enjoy Kong: Skull Island, I still think Godzilla is the superior film. Let’s get through the bad first. The thing that really brought Kong down was the humor. I get that they wanted to create a lighter tone compared to Godzilla, but the film, at its roots, was still a dark, serious monster film. This ended up clashing with the humor they added in to create a very confused atmosphere.
Along with the clashing tones, I didn’t care for the characters that were populating this film. I thought most of the movie’s characters didn’t bring much to the table, and acted out of normal monster movie tropes. I’ll trying not to spoil anything, but once again, Jackson plays a useless, stereotypical character, and I feel bad that he isn’t getting better rolls.
Even though there were things I didn’t like about this one, I still liked it. I enjoyed seeing a new take on the King Kong legend. I loved that this was an original story and not a retelling of the 1933 film. This meant that I couldn’t predict what was going to happen when Kong was doing battle with the Skullcrawlers. I also loved the action scenes. They were exciting and, at times, terrifying.
The main reason why I think Kong: Skull Island is inferior to Godzilla is its absence of intelligence. Godzilla was as smart as it was entertaining. This film took out all of the intelligence and smart characters that made Godzilla great, and left only the mindless, fun monster violence. It’s very clear that this movie was made of everything people wanted Godzilla to be. As much as I want to believe that Legendary Pictures isn’t stupid enough to listen to Internet haters, I’m afraid that, with this movie, they did.
Kong: Skull Island, despite various flaws, is still a fun time at the movies. It has a lot of really well-made action, neat creature designs, and some solid performances despite the stale characters. I am really looking forward to Godzilla: King of Monsters in 2019, and I hope Godzilla vs. Kong will be amazing. In terms of which monster I’m rooting for, I am Team Godzilla all the way.