When it comes to action movies, I’m not your go-to-girl. And that’s okay, since I don’t really want to be. I don’t watch that many of them, I can’t always follow intense action sequences, and I much prefer story-led films that take you on a journey that way instead. So if I’ve enjoyed an action movie, for the action sequences, nonetheless, that’s when you should sit up and listen. And this is one of those times.
In Kong: Skull Island, a team of scientists discover an uncharted island in the Pacific, but when they take a mission group of soldiers and scientists to explore and document their discover, they uncover more than they bargained for: a whole island of monsters, ruled by the biggest one of all – King Kong.
Kong: Skull Island is not a perfect movie, but what makes it work is that it knows what kind of movie it is. It’s a creature feature, monster movie, and rarely does it try to be anything more than that; the focus is on Kong himself, his history, his motivations, and most importantly, his fights, and that’s what makes the movie as much fun as it is. Very rarely is it the action, not the characters, that captures me more than anything, but I was on the edge of my seat! Jump scares and body horror abound, and every single fight scene was epic and very high stakes, with Kong’s introduction scene a spectacular way to set up the tone of the film, taking helicopters down and splattering blood. Every scene from then on, whether it’s Kong’s big final fight, or the smaller ones with one of the many inventive monsters on the island, had me captivated and thriller.
Because Kong isn’t afraid to take lives – again, it focuses on the monsters over the people, also the people are pretty much replaceable – and in doing that, director John Vogt-Roberts has managed to build out this crazy island, full of giant spiders and “skull-crawlers”, and have us invest in the monsters over all else. Aside from a small few characters, we don’t want to see the humans come out on top: this is the monsters’ island, and when the humans decide to come in and mess with that, we side with the victims. The monsters are the stars of the show, and Kong is king, as usual.
Of course, that means that the story and human characters fall flat, which is the film’s biggest drawback. With the exception of John C. Reilly (and your subconscious desire to root for lead characters no matter how boring), every character in Kong: Skull Island is either poorly written, stereotypical, or literally just there, serving only as pickings for the monsters. Samuel L. Jackson’s Colonel Packard was simple enough to understand, but no more than that, and Tom Hiddleston’s ex-Captain James Conrad and Brie Larson’s war photographer Mason Weaver were given very little to do, as much fun as they were to watch together. John Goodman, Jason Mitchell, Thomas Mann and Toby Kebbell were also in this movie; that’s really all you can say about them, since their roles are pretty forgettable.
This made room for John C. Reilly, however, to steal the show as Lieutenant Hank Marlow, a WWII vet who has been marooned on Skull Island for nearly thirty years. Full of humour and heart, delivering almost all of the emotional moments of the film, and basically carrying the story by himself, he was also our entry into much of the mythology and history behind Kong and this mysterious, uncharted island, which, if the after credits scene has anything to say about it, will come in handy later on.
Whilst I will always rate films out of ten upon an equal scale, not all movies are meant to be enjoyed in the same way. Kong: Skull Island walked a fine line in that it was definitely a big, dumb action movie, but not too dumb, with the character stuff being JUST good enough to justify it being there in the first place. In this way, it allowed itself to become a great creature feature: the fights were spectacular, the thrills made me gasp several times throughout the movie, and it allowed itself to have stakes and kill a few major characters, something which so many action movies, even the good ones, don’t allow themselves to do. These big moments, combined with its skilful direction and the epic scale of the fight scenes, makes Kong: Skull Island a great theatre going, popcorn-crunching, big-screen experience.
For such terrible human characters, Kong: Skull Island has a really impressive cast! Here’s my top five favourite films starring the cast of Kong:
- Room – Brie Larson
- The Avengers – Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L Jackson
- Kingsman: The Secret Service – Samuel L Jackson
- The Emperor’s New Groove – John Goodman
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Thomas Mann
Photos taken from IMDB.com: