Review: “Kong: Skull Island”

Review: “Kong: Skull Island”

The familiar question “Kong: Skull Island” seems to want to pose is: How powerless is man and his weapons when faced with nature’s most threatening forces? Instead, those behind the camera seemed hell-bent on satisfying another curiosity: How much subpar filmmaking can the audience endure to get to the eye candy? The latest iteration of

The familiar question “Kong: Skull Island” seems to want to pose is: How powerless is man and his weapons when faced with nature’s most threatening forces?

Instead, those behind the camera seemed hell-bent on satisfying another curiosity: How much subpar filmmaking can the audience endure to get to the eye candy?

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The latest iteration of the influential franchise that is nearing an unexpected 100 years of life is also one of its loudest and dumbest. It amounts to nearly two hours (though, thankfully, it seems much shorter) of brainless hodgepodge that teeters on overindulgence, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Transformer films for the worst reasons.

It’s one thing to make a monster movie and put its human characters in the backseat. But if director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and screenwriter Dan Gilroy are putting their scaly, furry, deadly creations front and center, their human counterparts aren’t just in the backseat; they’re being dragged behind at 100 miles an hour.

The dumbfounding thing is that part of “Kong” seems to want to make the humans an integral part of the story, even though it’s impossible to tell which of its handful of leading characters is supposed to be the main protagonist.

Is it Brie Larson’s idealistic photographer? Tom Hiddleston’s unconvincingly rugged tracker? Samuel L. Jackson’s tormented Vietnam War general, John Goodman’s obsessive scientist? They all have a legitimate case, and as underwhelming as their stories are, it’s clear that Gilroy was hoping one of them would hit the mark.

Even John C. Reilly’s Skull Island denizen has an unexpectedly large role, even though all he is destined to elicit are groans from the audience.

At least “Kong” doesn’t waste much time getting to its titular setting, and it doesn’t skimp on its creatures either. The film boasts numerous creative monsters, snarling, snapping, seething their way on the screen. They provide the most satisfying moments of wonder, and absolutely share as much screentime as Kong, who, oddly enough, seems almost like a sidelined character in his own story at times.

But when he isn’t, the film’s most glorious shots (many of them prominently featured in marketing) unfold, like the ape king blocking out a huge sun in the vein of “Apocalypse Now” as he keeps watch over his territory, or as he lumbers morosely through valleys, the world’s deadliest loner.

While “Kong’s” aesthetic is consistent, the film’s tone is not. At times a full-on B-movie romp, at others an adventure film, and at other points still a darkly gritty tale of revenge, “Kong” takes on more than we really ask it to, an unfortunate side effect of its overcrowded human cast.

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David Lynch is an award-winning film critic and journalist and the current editor-in-chief of the New Mexico Daily Lobo.

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