“Kong: Skull Island” is a movie that thinks its significantly better than it actually is. It boasts witty one-liners and a slew of supposedly likable characters, necessary items for any reboot of a classic film or franchise. But it fails to assemble into anything remotely entertaining. The movie is a wake up call to any aspiring Mothras or Godzillas who want to sit on monsterverse movie throne, because Kong is no longer king.
Tom Hiddleston plays James Conrad, a British pilot tasked of heading to Skull Island. Accompanying him is the head of a helicopter squadron Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), along with a steadfast photographer Mason Weaver (Brit Marling) as well as Bill Randa, John Goodma’s outspoken character in charge of the whole thing. Oh wait, there’s also John C. Reilly, who plays a soldier who has been lost on Skull Island for quite some time, and a group of soldiers, the most notable being Mills who was played by Jason Mitchell of “Straight Outta Compton” fame.
If that sounds like a lot of people to you, it feels even more that way in the film. Only Conrad is semi-developed, everyone else just fits their monster mold into getting us in Kong’s grips. None of the actors do a poor job with their roles, its just so much of their character existence seems unnecessary to begin with. It’s like being popular in high school with dozens of friends, or having a small circle of three or four friends. Everyone likes you when you’re popular, but only on a smaller scale do people really get to enjoy you for who you are.
Sadly, there’s no such thing as small with Kong. When the ape finally does appear, the action feels slow and stilted. Kong bashing and thrashing other monsters is only rewarding on the first instance or so and quickly loses its charm. Kong’s battle sequences are at their best though when he takes on the military. This is unsurprising, as it hearkens back to what made monster films from the first “King Kong” to “Jurassic Park” so great to begin with: the human element. Schoolyard kids can have debates about whether Godzilla could defeat King Kong, but the adults know its really the helpless humans running away that makes these films enticing to begin with.
Strangely, the cinematography is pretty outstanding in “Skull Island,” draping Kong and his subjects in hazy shades of blue, orange and green. It’s worth a watch but is wholly unremarkable, a movie that meets every new convention put forth by it but fails to break even one.