Cool monsters, fun cast, engaging action: There’s not a whole lot more one could ask for, from ”Kong: Skull Island.”
Director Jordan Vogt-Robert’s contribution to the developing “Monsterverse” isn’t going to sweep any award shows, nor is it necessarily going to wow any audience with groundbreaking visuals. However, what Kong will do is provide simplistic (possibly dumb) fun without any apologies.
The film is confident. Contrary to other studio-commissioned blockbusters, Kong has unique aspects that showcase Vogt-Robert’s style. Liberties were taken. The movie is definitively stylized, with some clever cinematography and gripping visuals. Though the film suffers from excessive CGI (as a film on an imaginary island with giant imaginary monsters will), it is careful to be self-aware and never take itself too seriously. This is good, as no one should be taking this movie too seriously.
Among the awesome-fest fun of guns and monsters are some cringe-worthy moments – including one with a gas mask and samurai sword. Kong tries to find fun in every moment, which requires some stretching. Not all the jokes land, nor accommodate the circumstances. It’s as if Vogt-Roberts never wanted to elicit too much of any one emotion at a time.
The result is a semi-distant cast. Though the fun dialogue attempts to engage the audience, in the group of scientists and soldiers, there are simply too many characters to keep track of, and too little time to try. The quick break from one scene to the next, in the interest of keeping up with the relentless pace of the film, keeps the audience from becoming very invested in any one protagonist. Moments that should be shocking, aren’t. Characters that should elicit sympathy, don’t.
So, what’s left to carry the audience through the two-hour film? Gnarly, awesome, creature-crushing, monster-mashing mayhem.
It should be noted King Kong himself looks magnificent, and the creature design for the “Skull Crawlers” (Kong’s nemeses) is creative and terrifying. What’s more, both have simplicity in their favor. Unlike other movies that overdevelop a design to the point of being an unrecognizable CGI mass, the many monsters of Kong are subtle. This choice amplifies the adrenaline during every brawl. Instead of taking the time to distinguish what exactly is transpiring in every shot of action (*cough cough* “Transformers” *cough* “Godzilla” *cough*), most of the action takes place in broad daylight. There’s no mistaking that butts are, in fact, being kicked. Even the scenes between the humans and monsters are inventive and fun, with some surprisingly violent and unique deaths.
Ultimately, Skull Island is just raw, relentless excitement. Almost a short throwback to the simplicity of early 2000s action adventures, the film showcases nothing new, nor is it the psychological think-piece that would incite controversy and self-reflection. Rather, Kong is a film for moviegoers who’d rather give their brain the night off, sit back, and feast their eyes on the iconic beast beating things with trees and chains. Kong only makes one promise, and it delivers on that promise, aggressively and without apology.