This review was written by Anthony J Digioia. Follow him and his website here for more awesome reviews: SilverScreen Analysis
“KONG: SKULL ISLAND” stars; Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Hawkins, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Toby Kebbell, Tian Jing, Jason Mitchell, John C. Reilly and it’s directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
The story follows a group of explorers in the 1970’s who travel out to a remote island in the Pacific and come face to face with massive monsters and the legendary, Kong.
Now we are flooded with remakes and reboots these days and this was yet another. There have been a handful of Kong movies over the years, the last being in 2005, a film to me that felt more like “Jurassic Park” with a big ape in it. However, I will admit the trailers for this one showed some promise.
But the trailers always make a movie look good, and with so many of these big-budget adventure films being sort of underwhelming, I still didn’t have the highest of expectations. The first-act started out rather ordinary as it introduces the characters and shows the building of the team of people that will be traveling out on this expedition.
There was also a good amount of exposition thrown at you early on as well that sets the foundations for everything and for the first 20-minutes the movie was enjoyable but still very, ordinary. Then this story turns on a dime and the tension ramps up immediately and holds strong for the rest of the run-time with a story-line the creates a wildly tense and impactful, yet equally humorous adventure that I found to be a great time.
The cast performances were all serviceable with no one bringing in a bad performance, but none really elevating the material either, except for John C. Reilly, who we will get to in a minute. But the rest of the cast was solid for their roles. I was worried about the possible Hiddleston/Larson love subplot wasting time, but they avoided it and while both their characters were very cut-and-paste they worked for the story.
I did feel John Goodman was a little wasted, but with this large cast there wasn’t any particular character that dominated the film, which in the end was a good thing. By letting the island, Kong and the other monsters sort of be the stars. Yet all the cast members had their moments and kudos to Samuel L. Jackson, who I love. Yes, he did have some of his trademark Samuel L’isms, but he actual played a role that had a unique persona at times which was nice to see.
As for the visuals, I thought they were fantastic and eye-popping from start-to-finish. Unlike “Godzilla” from 2014 where the headliner was all but forgotten, this film boasts its star front and center in all his glory, and the result was fantastic. He was implemented perfectly into the story, was never forgotten and with some great direction, cinematography, and camera-work you truly feel the power this famous ape has.
The tropical island was a fun backdrop, and with some nice wide shots, and impactful close-ups, you truly grasp the size of Kong, and throughout this film he has one amazing scene after another. But the film also delivers a great amount of suspense from the settings alone. The film creates a strong uneasy feeling when the group hits the island and with the various massive creatures that also roam the land you really never know what is going to happen which only adds to the feeling of helplessness from the characters.
The story does follow a routine arc but lines itself with so many other impressive, unique and effective elements the story-line still comes off as relatively fresh, very ambitious, and highly entertaining. The writing was safe, but effective in creating characters you can build interest in with some nicely placed comedy to break the tension.
Which leads me to the bright spot of this film, that being John C. Reilly, who I consider to be the true star of this film. I will admit what they showed of him in the trailers did worry me, I wasn’t sure how the laughs would work in the tone of the story. I was also curious if the comedic attempts could possibly pull some of the impact out of the overall film but I was completely wrong.
Not only was Reilly the most developed character, he was also the most likable and connectable character, and his comedic delivery was incredible. Reilly hits every scene and line with an effortless perfection, and despite some of the other cast drawing a chuckle during a tense moment here and there, Reilly shines brightest with his comical timing.
Overall, “Kong: Skull Island” was not perfect but it was a blast and for a film with a giant fighting ape in it, the adventure it delivers was a great time. It kept me engaged from start-to-finish, delivers the crazy adventure the promos promised and I definitely recommend checking this film out to enjoy all the stunning visuals, climactic battles. It was a strong reboot for this famous character to introduce him to a new audience and with an IMAX presentation it was awesome, and nostalgic all at the same time.