Legendary’s Monster Universe takes a Small Step Backwards: “Kong: Skull Island” Movie Review (2 Stars)

Full disclosure: I’m one of those people that LOVED Legendary’s 2014 film of Godzilla. The idea of a new Godzilla film didn’t interest me in the least, but hiring a little known director, Gareth Edwards (who followed it with a little movie called Rogue One), stunning cinematography by Seamus McGarvey, a beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat, and not to mention a brilliant cast- it turned out well for them. And it was to be the beginning of their new monster universe.

Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson in “Kong: Skull Island”

So you can imagine how excited I was for their next installment, Skull Island. Again, they hired a little known director in Jordan Vogt- Roberts, whose last film The Kings of Summer was one of my favorite films of 2013. They got a brilliant cast on board including Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, etc. I was ready…

Maybe my hopes were too high going into this film. There are definitely aspects that I loved about it. I think it’s great to finally get a NEW King Kong story and not simply remake the same story over and over. The film is also shot exquisitely – clearly trying to pay homage to a number of films but mainly Apocalypse Now. It’s also a lot of fun.

That’s why I’m having a problem with it. Yes it’s fun, but one of the great things that worked for me about Godzilla was they really built up the anticipation for the title character and it wasn’t just about a large lizard wrecking havoc on cities. It was a story about these human characters and how the presence of these creatures is affecting their worlds.

There’s no suspense in Skull Island. The titular character is revealed within the first five minutes of the movie and then we are basically treated to a two hour CGI feast of large creatures constantly battling. Sure some of these sequences are entertaining and highly creative but it gets very dull after the third or fourth go around.

There’s also hardly any reason for me to care about the main characters. They’re given either just a line or two or nothing at all of background info and then they’re all just thrown together on an island. We aren’t even given the treat of the suspense before they meet Kong because he shows up about two minutes into them landing on the island and we go right into the first of maaaaaany fights.  It’s such a shame because the wealth of great actors that are cast in this project is just incredible and almost every talent is wasted.

The last thing I need to address about Skull Island is the CGI itself. Some of it works so well with the beautiful cinematography and production design. There are many creative creatures and ideas that are brought to life, but I couldn’t help but feel like they had a problem with scale. The size of Kong appeared the change drastically from scene to scene. Kong is MUCH larger in this version because they are setting it up for his next big movie where he battles Godzilla- understandable. However, it felt like something was off when you’re seeing him next to Brie Larson in one scene and then when he’s much larger while climbing mountains and throwing helicopters in the next. Visually it felt incredibly inconsistent. Enough on that tangent.

I’m giving Skull Island two stars because it was mildly entertaining and it’s a beautiful film to look at. Hopefully, Legendary fixes their story problems and is able to find a balance of the action of Kong vs. the story and lack of action in Godzilla. Fingers crossed for the next one…

Awards Potential: Best Visual Effects (but with the amount of films coming this year, I bet this one gets forgotten.)



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