In Brief: Exactly what you expect a King Kong movie to be.
Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie. Other than the original King Kong and a release here and there, most monster movies are awful. You can’t define this as awful but it’s not going to end up iconic either.
The giant ape’s newest is based on the first half of the original story. Missing is the beauty and the beast spin of the original and its two clones. Maybe missing is the wrong word. While a bit of it exists, this isn’t the focus of the story. That is actually a good thing.
Set in 1973 as the war in Vietnam is winding down, John Goodman does Bill Randa who — along with a colleague — wants to explore a just discovered island. His partner is nicely played by Straight Outta Compton’s Corey Hawkins.
Randa needs transportation because the island is surrounded by a perpetual storm. That help comes from an Army colonel and his helicopter crew. He’s done by Samuel L. Jackson. And since no one traipses through the jungle without an expert, Randa hires Tom Hiddleston’s (Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies, I Saw the Light) James Conrad to lead them.
No Kong flick is ever without a beauty and the eye candy is provided by The Room’s Brie Larson who plays an award-winning photographer. The humor is provided by John C. Reilly who plays a World War II veteran who crashed on the island in the 1940s.
Did I say humor? There’s not that much and frankly, a bit more and this could have really been fun.
Kong: Skull Island is directed Jordan Vogt-Roberts who did the very good The Kings of Summer and it’s co-written by Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Max Borenstein (Godzilla 2014) and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World). All — except for Nightcrawler — were effects-filled as is this one.
The characters and the plot are two-dimensional and the effects dominate. Goodman, Hiddleston, Larson and crew are pretty much there just to be in peril. This is the worst role Jackson has taken in eons. He’s awful. It’s a huge negative as is Jackson and his co-stars basically sleepwalking through the story.
The “real” reason for the trip once revealed and expanded upon in the sequel-promising outtake after the credits, is underwhelming. So is the idea of a sequel.
The movie’s only life comes from the impossible not to love Kong.
Things happen. The group gets stranded. Kong shows up. He wreaks havoc. The men and woman run and hide. Monstrous bugs and other creatures pick them off. They meet the island’s natives and Reilly’s long, lost soldier. Kong fights the group. He fights monsters. Kong is bad. Kong is good. Kong is — basically — Kong.
What’s not to love?
Of all the Kong movies, this is the second best. So if violent, overgrown gorillas are your thing — or like a lady friend said — you want to see it because Hiddleston is a hunk, you won’t be disappointed.
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Toby Kebbell
Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes. It’s Kong being Kong but other than the original it’s the best of the bunch. Give it a 3 1/2 on the Average Joe Movie 0 to 5 scale.
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5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.
Gary Wolcott has been a movie consultant for KXL since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 25-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
Got a movie suggestion or comment? Email him!