Much like the recently reinvigorated Godzilla franchise, every generation must have its version of King Kong. I’m not sure why. Kong is a great character borne out of the notion that the world still has uncharted wonders and untamed wild things. Some of them just happen to be very big and strong wild things.
The world of cinema has certainly gone a far stretch from the original Kong of 1933 where the gigantic gorilla was portrayed by a stop-motion figurine and a giant furry hand. Now, the beast is pure motion capture data and CGI. No slight to mo-cap actor Terry Notary (who does as fine a job here as he ever has) but this Kong is missing something. I’m not quite sure that I can put my finger on it but here’s a list of ways I’ve tried:
• There’s a strong cast but mostly unconvincing acting jobs by the vast majority of them. I liked John C. Reilly the most as he is always reliable in putting forth the comic relief where it’s needed. I was most disappointed by Samuel L. Jackson who should have been easily able to play an Apocalypse Now kind of army colonel. The Vietnam War is ending but he has still never faced his greatest foe, one that he unexpectedly finds in the sizable simian. He could have sneered and howled less to better show off his bloodlust, and he should have too. I just didn’t buy him in the role just as much as I will never, ever, ever buy Tom Hiddleston as a tough mercenary type who gets hired to lead scientists and soldiers alike through an unforgiving jungle. What? Was Colin Firth unavailable? Bah. Jackson’s seasoned soldiers looked like they spent the war playing cards in the mess hall. The CGI creatures were more believable.
• This is an excellent example of what an uneven movie looks like. What is it meant to be? A cultural timepiece of the early 1970s (e.g. the excellent soundtrack, the heavy Nixon iconography, the endless talk about the end of the war in Vietnam, etc.)? An action adventure movie about finding the path to salvation across a hellish island of monsters? A revenge movie about a war-hungry soldier up against an insurmountable foe? An homage to old sci-fi classics of film and literature including the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne? If somebody figures this out, please get in touch with director Jordan Vogt-Roberts so that he can get it right in time to release a Redux version.
• So much of this movie doesn’t make sense – an island chain surrounded by a perpetual storm system but the weather on the island itself is sunny and pleasant … really? – but even if you buy into the scenario, some things still don’t add up. How is it possible a 32-metre high gorilla can still sneak up on people? Does it also have ninja skills? Does no one smell it coming? How can it be the only massive gorilla on this island filled with other massive animals and insects, some seemingly prehistoric-slash-mythological in nature? How much does this thing have to eat each day? It must have massive bowel movements to match (again, the smell) but there’s nary a scat to sniff. We saw how much a triceratops can poop in Jurassic Park. Well, this is practically Jurassic Island here. You’d expect bigger doo-doo. Who’s with me on that?
• I had to wait through the entire end credits for the last scene before I understood the larger impact of a new Kong movie. Couldn’t the filmmakers have found a way to disappoint me earlier on?
In summation, Kong: Skull Island is mostly noise and fury, signifying sequels. Expect more mayhem from this megalo-monster menagerie. Sorry to break the bad news but at least this and all of future Kongs will likely play well to an international audience.
Kong: Skull Island
Starring Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Marc Evan Jackson, Richard Jenkins, John C. Reilly and John Goodman
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly
Rating: PG for violence, coarse language and frightening scenes
Runtime: 118 minutes
Now playing at Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatres