Kong: Skull Island is an unimaginative soft reboot of the King Kong franchise, which squanders its interesting context and becomes a cheap counterfeit of Apocalypse Now.
Movie Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars (Average)
Cast: John Goodman, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John C. Reilly and more
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
I have never been a fan of monster films. If I wanted to spend my money watching a fight, I would buy boxing tickets. I was hoping that Kong: Skull Island might be more than a monster brawl, and stray towards a Cloverfield-esque plot, but it didn’t.
Kong: Skull Island begins with an interesting premise by taking the main arc of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountain of Madness and placing it in the Nixon era. The result is a backdrop of paranoia and Cold War politics where the danger of hidden knowledge, embodied by Skull Island, the land where King Kong dwells, is the doom of the expedition. Kong quickly fails to fulfill any of the potential it establishes, and becomes a generic monster film aimed at families which is clearly the first product in a larger franchise chain. Skull Island’s tropical setting and its ethereal human society, led by downed World War Two pilot, Hank Marlowe, whose name is clear reference to Heart of Darkness, both borrow from Apocalypse Now.
These references soon proliferate, devolving the film from a quasi-homage to an outright counterfeiting of Apocalypse Now, with the helicopter scene shown in the Kong: Skull Island trailer mimicking the ride of the Valkyries scene, replete with a speaker system attached to one helicopters blaring out Wagner while bombs fall on the jungle below. The plot itself is an obvious set of events leading up to a big finale which is made glaringly obvious by the main characters, who are two dimensional signposts for the plot. The worst of all the cast has to be Colonel Packard, portrayed by the venerable Samuel. L. Jackson. Even Jackson cannot save a character whose existence is to warm up Kong for the big fight, despite Packard’s repeated quips that he will not lose another war, just like Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. James Conrad, the steeled former S.A.S. tracker who joins the expedition for money, is Tom Hiddleston’s best Bear Grylls impression, which is best summarised as Grylls without the thrills.
Kong’s only saving grace is Hank Marlowe. John. C. Reilly channels a part of Steve Brule, creating a character who is both comical but oddly human. Unhinged by his experiences on the Island, he is wise to the dangers all around them, but sweetly naive about the outside world he longs to see again after thirty years. Upon the film’s end, I do hope they make a prequel revolving around Marlowe’s life on the Island which could blend Castaway with Jurassic Park.
To Jordan Vogt- Roberts’ credit, certain scenes, particularly the earlier battle scenes and initial encounters with the island and its ecology, were very well done. Other sections felt hackneyed and lazily done, with hardened photo-journalist Mason Weaver occasionally becoming a snap-happy tourist, despite the terrors they have endured.
Kong: Skull Island will soon become a steadfast favourite for families on Sunday afternoon T.V. and nothing else.
By Saul Shimmin
For the trailer, see below: