Apparently, if you want someone to perform as a CGI ape, you either get Andy Serkis or Toby Kebbell, both of which performed in the Planet of the Apes reboots (as Caesar and Koba respectively), and now both of them played King Kong, Kebbell in this one and Andy Serkis in Peter Jackson’s rendition.
Now how this movie was received is a bit of an oddity. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a Certified Fresh rating as the vast majority of its critics really liked the movie, and then almost all the amateur reviewers I follow on Twitter absolutely hated it.
Where do I stand? Strangely enough, I’m somewhere in the middle.
Kong: Skull Island is simultaneously a terrible movie and a movie that I absolutely enjoyed watching. Much of the reason why I enjoyed it was because it was so terrible. This movie is Grade-A monster movie schlock, and there were moments where I was busting out laughing when I’m almost positive the movie wasn’t intending for me to do so.
For such a star-studded cast, the movie grossly underutilizes all of their talent. Tom Hiddleston basically plays discount Nathan Drake in this movie, and there’s not a lot of personality or intrigue behind him. The movie mentions multiple times that he’s a great tracker, but aside from other characters acknowledging this, the trait is never demonstrated in the movie.
Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as every psychotic role he’s ever played. His character is an over-the-top disenfranchised soldier who goes crazy with his war-lust. It also wouldn’t hurt to mention that Jackson’s craziness is the go-to plot device generator; a lot of the stupid stuff the characters end up doing when they’re on the island would have been avoided if he wasn’t stupid and in a position of power.
Brie Larson… hoo boy. Apparently, Larson’s character is an elite journalist who was hired to document this exhibition. But aside from the fact that she’s takes pictures every five minutes in the movie, this trait is never emphasized either. She was also extremely awkward in this movie. There are so many times where the scene cut to her reaction to something, and it frequently felt weird to me, like she was forcing the emotional response that she didn’t actually have.
Finally, John C. Reilly, while extremely entertaining, is the kooky comic relief character who says things that sound very John C. Reilly-ish.
So we have the chiseled action hero, a battle-hardened soldier, the eye-candy strong-and-independent woman, and the crazy clown guy. And they’re all spouting out lines of dialogue that come out of a C movie script. If this movie didn’t seem like it was trying to take itself so seriously, I would almost want to say that they intended for the movie to be so ridiculously cliche.
There’s a lot of other characters besides the four that I mentioned, but they’re not worth talking about because they are all forgettable. Yes, even John Goodman was. This is certainly not a character-driven movie.
Back to the dialogue… the dialogue in this movie is absolute schlock. So much of it is cheesy one-liners, unsubtle exposition, and sarcastic quips that are supposed to be funny because they’re relevant to real life despite the fact that this movie is supposed to take place fifty years ago. Much of this dialogue is awkwardly delivered by much of the cast.
In regards to cinematography, the movie frequently reminded me of Michael Bay’s style (in other words, the cinematography is schlock too). There are a constant array of scenes of people doing heroic poses and the camera is either zooming in on them or panning from side-to-side as if to capture the awesomeness of the moment. Only, the moments were never awesome because they didn’t put in the character development necessary for us to like these characters.
Boy oh boy, was it ever fun to laugh at it though.
As for the actual visuals, the CGI is the best part of the movie. There are so many things to look that are vibrant, real, and creative. None of these traits describe Kong himself, but there are points where Kong does something that was really cool or at least interesting to watch.
The soundtrack was also good.
Now it’s not until the second half of the movie where it almost completely devolves into wonderful stupidity. Around the time when our heroes go into the skull crawler’s nest (something they could’ve avoided if Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t an idiot) is when it truly gets ridiculous. I saw this movie with my youngest brother and my wife, and we were all laughing hysterically at the ridiculous action that was taking place. It was completely over-the-top, ridiculous, and above all schlocky.
I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “schlock” more to describe a movie, but Kong: Skull Island absolutely deserves it.
Now, there’s a lot of confusion to me about whether or not the filmmakers knew that this movie was absolutely moronic and intentionally made it so, or if they thought that what they were doing was a fantastic work of art. The reason I’m not sure is that the tone of the movie always seemed to imply that what you’re seeing is serious. But I was almost never able to take this movie seriously because of just how ridiculous it was.
Kong: Skull Island is consistently visually appealing and occasionally well executed. The rest of this movie is not good. However, the fact that the movie is so cliche, overdone, and lacking in attention to detail actually adds a lot of charm to this movie.
Here’s how it goes, guys: are you wanting to go into this movie expecting a masterpiece of acting, storytelling and craft? You are going to hate this movie then, because Kong: Skull Island is not going to win any awards anytime soon, and they do not deserve any awards. Are you interested in a movie where the stupidity of it actually makes it entertaining? Then you will, at the very least, enjoy this movie.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I would watch it again for all of its hilariousness. In many ways, this movie was the schlock I was hoping to get from xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Perhaps the key to making a successful terrible movie is to try to make something great and have it be unintentionally hilarious.