Review: Kong: Skull Island | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Kong: Skull Island

After seeing 'Kong: Skull Island', Redbrick Film's John James has some harsh words for the monster movie reboot

Kong: Skull Island, the 2nd film in Legendary Picture’s ‘MonsterVerse’ franchise (because Marvel did it so why can’t we?), pits a supersized Kong against ‘Merican soldiers and monsters. However, who is really the monster?

In my opinion, it's whoever wrote the script. Kong: Skull Island beats you round the head with around 20 minutes of poorly delivered exposition, each character speaking on and on to build up suspense that the film doesn’t capitalise on or deserve. The end product is we’re left with a survey expedition to the nefariously named ‘Skull Island’, headed by John Goodman and aided by tracker Tom Hiddleston, Army Colonel Samuel L. Jackson and photographer Brie Larson. Once on the island, predictable chaos ensues and our characters are left in the thick of the action, their lives on the line, a true test of their mettle in the most unforgiving of environments! 

Kong: Skull Island beats you round the head with around 20 minutes of poorly delivered exposition

Apparently. In reality, the audience does not care about a single one of them as they are all caricatures rather than characters, utterly boring and devoid of any personality. This is to be expected, given that each is established in a single line of exposition. Goodman is the crazed explorer cliché, Jackson the aggressive military cliché, Hiddleston the mysterious drifter cliché and Larson the strong able woman cliché, because the film makes her one. Larson is a photographer, this is apparently surprising as it’s the seventies (‘I didn’t expect you to be a woman’) though don’t worry, her subsequent capability in the role soon dispels this ‘reasonable doubt’ in a move that I presume serves to make a statement on ‘kickass femininity’ within a predominately patriarchal society that the film is itself projecting and establishing. Confused? You should be because it’s stupid; the film would have far more integrity if it didn’t treat Larson’s input as anything more than her natural ability, drawing undue attention just comes across as patronising.

As there is no room for character development or desire to implement it, the performances can hardly be more than summaries of what the script requires their character communicate. That’s not to say the performances couldn’t have been better. They were all terrible. Well, John C. Reilly was OK but he was essentially playing Dale from Stepbrothers. Samuel L. Jackson ‘phones it in’ again, demonstrating once more his utter disregard for the concept of artistic integrity, whilst Tom Hiddleston’s rugged SAS hard-man impression is every bit as ridiculous as you’d expect. The audience assumes he’s the main character owing more to the fact he’s used as a vehicle for many of the films set pieces and has the obligatory love interest with Brie Larson, (‘Isn't it odd, the most dangerous places are always the most beautiful’, nice) than anything he actually does.

The pacing of the film is all over the place, in stark contrast to its characters who largely remain in the same place doing nothing. After Kong’s initial helicopter beat down, the team are split up on opposite ends of the island meaning the narrative has to develop through and around them. The problem is that the film does this terribly, overloading scenes with useless side plots, stupid dialogue and a host of side characters who are even less integral or developed that our protagonists, yet share the same amount of screen time. Jason Mitchell, so impressive in Straight Outta Compton, is the worst offender here spending the entire film yelling expletives and complaining. Then again, it’s better than the dross Hiddlestone was serving up. 

The cinematography of the film is eminently stylish, which in a way is frustrating as it teases the film it could have been

Though Kong systematically fails on all aspects befitting a good film, namely plot, performance and substance, it can still be fun. The soundtrack is peppered with seventies rock anthems which builds a nice vibe and when Kong throws down, it is very impressive. The cinematography of the film is eminently stylish, which in a way is frustrating as it teases the film it could have been. You can’t help but marvel when Kong’s gigantic frame blots out the sun and likewise Samuel L Jackson’s fist clenched tyrant hints at a fascinating parallel between man and perceived monster, that ultimately the film is too lazy to establish. Considering this is the follow-up to Gareth Edward’s moody, realist Godzilla (2014), the film's tone is odd. You can forgive an action film for being stupid, often the best are, however when a film is so blatantly stupid that you become aware of how ridiculous it is that forgiveness falls away. Characters routinely die in the most moronic ways imaginable, some of them even wise cracking as they’re killed though to be fair if you had a chance to leave this film you’d probably be ecstatic too. For a 12 rated film, it’s incredibly violent, take the scene where a man is impaled by a spider leg or the delightful sequence where that man is pulled apart by the 'bat pigeon' things. There is no build up to either of these events, they simply happen and as a result they come across as gratuitous and stupid rather than entertaining, serving if you like as an overarching metaphor for the film.

VERDICT: Kong: Skull Island is a film acutely aware of the legacy it exists within whilst seemingly equally happy to be a skid mark upon it. If that sounds unduly harsh, it’s because this is a King Kong film, if it’s not essential viewing, then why has it been made?

Rating: 3/10

Tinged with tragedy, touched by greatness.


15th March 2017 at 2:56 pm