I’m going to address the giant elephant in the room here. Or giant monster. Whatever you wanna call it. I was unnecessarily forgiving of Bryan Cranston’s 2014 Godzilla remake when I reviewed it. The film had a direction that I appreciated in hopes of recreating traditional genre suspense films. However a weak script is what brought the movie down as it slogged through a second act while leaving viewers feeling gypped on the amount of Godzilla appearances in their Godzilla movie. But boy, when I saw the positive feedback that Kong Skull Island was getting, I knew that these people don’t really get it.
Just because you get to see a ton of the giant monster that supposedly stars in the movie doesn’t necessarily make it great. This is not me discrediting the visual effects of Kong or the monsters he battles in the film. They have weight, they have color and character, the choreography is actually visible in broad daylight. That’s all good. However, being a cookie-cutter franchise movie where the spectacle is entirely computer generated, we need a little something to ground us, and that doesn’t mean it needs to be as groundbreaking as Logan or The Dark Knight, but at least a script of some kind of substance could save a movie like this. Every single one of these characters can be cut out from the back of a promotional box of Gorilla Munch as they walk around looking like gorgeous Hollywood actors with muddy pants shouting vague dialogue and one liners in no direction. The script for this movie was spinning its wheels on it’s way to the closest action set piece. There are things I can appreciate about the movie embracing humor, awkwardness, unique cinematography and strange characters. It frankly does feel like one of those campy B-movies on the old Creature Double Feature blocks on cable TV to the point where I wonder if every element of Kong Skull Island was attempting to recreate the essence of those movies.
A lame script, marveling visual spectacle, vague Vietnam pulp comic metaphors, bell bottom pants, every element you can think of for those movies right down to the terrible acting by even some of Hollywood’s greatest performers of the time. Make no mistake, King Kong is the star of this movie, followed by John C. Reilly and close behind are the massive cast of A-Listers like Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson and John Goodman. My issue with this is simply that B-movie camp can work if you have something else to work with in contrast, or if the visual marvel in effects is particularly unlike anything you’d seen before, ala Ray Harryhausen’s special effects work back in the day. But Kong Skull Island presents characters that are, while some fun to watch, speak and act with the intelligence of 3rd graders, with no plot direction other than escaping from a backdrop that, in an era of endlessly well crafted visual effects, feels unremarkable. This is an example of the glutinous demand for effects driven action by moviegoers of today, and if that’s what they want, sure. Ok. Personally, I find the missteps of Kong Skull Island were made in attempt to sidestep the criticisms of Godzilla (2014) before it, but at least that movie, despite pacing issues, presents a kind of rewatchability.