Kong: Skull Island
Every studio’s dream is to have a cinematic universe. Marvel was the first to have this success with its superhero behemoth, and Disney has moved on to making the Star Wars universe as well. The closest studio to rival Disney’s proficiency has been Warner Brothers, but their “universe-building” has been slightly sabotaged with the speed at which they are setting everything up; most of their movies end up being bogged down with so much exposition that there’s barely a story arc in their movies at all. This is the case with the DC superheroes, the new Harry Potter prequels, and most recently the “monster-verse.”
Kong: Skull Island is the supposed second installation in Warner Brother’s monster universe following the box office success of 2014’s Godzilla. Skull Island takes place in the 1970s as we follow a group of researchers being escorted by military personnel into an uncharted island. There the group discovers a habitant ripe with undiscovered and deadly species, including a giant ape.
I have to say that as far as today’s blockbusters go Skull Island is pretty decent. The story is kept simple, the characters are likeable, and the action is entertaining. The plot was a bit unsteady in the sense that it veered wherever it was convenient for exposition, and the characters were written a bit too loosely so that you never really bought into their professions. We had some scattered monster fights here and there to distract more than entertain, and director Jon Vogt-Roberts certainly is able to bring a distinct style that pays homage to certain Vietnam War films (hard to not catch the Apocalypse Now references). But if anything, the big problem in Skull Island is middle act of the film, which was overstuffed with expository dialogue that dragged the film down to a crawl.
Warner Bros. was able to sign on a notable cast, however, with the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson (isn’t he in every blockbuster?), John Goodman, John C. Reilly, and an underused but great Toby Kebbell. Most are overshadowed by the splatter of CGI and the monotone script, but they nevertheless are good company. John C. Reilly might have been a little too wild with his comedy making him a bothersome anomaly in comparison with the more serious tone of the film.
Overall, Skull Island ends up being an enjoyable blockbuster, but certainly not of the dimensions it wants to be. Vogt-Roberts certainly gives his film a style to differentiate it from other big movies, but he and his cast can’t do enough to live up to the legendary tale they are retelling.