Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Toby Kebbell and Corey Hawkins
Review Written By: Movie Parliament Prime Minister, Michael Dalton
The idea of doing a King Kong film set in the 1970s is an interesting one. The best monster movies have always been allegorical and there is great potential in making Kong a pawn in superpower competition, or using him to explore post-war angst. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts shamelessly evokes Apocalypse Now and the film clearly wants you to place it in the war genre. However, like most blockbusters that ground themselves in an historical event, it utilizes that time period in the most superficial of ways, merely using it as an excuse to play 70s music and indulge a fanboyish desire to place Kong in Apocalypse Now imagery. Whilst the film may frequently try and remind you of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, it instead reminded me of the film they were trying to make in Tropic Thunder.
Following in the footsteps of Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man), Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) and Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), this project takes a director who has made one small, heartfelt film (In this case Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ lovely, ‘The Kings of Summer’) and gives them the keys to a blockbuster property. Whilst this has been relatively successful in the past, here you get the sense that you are watching somebody’s second feature, as the scars of the editing process and studio intrusion are plain to see. Numerous characters and plotlines are introduced at the start of the film only to fall by the wayside. The film has more characters than it knows what to do with and each of them seem to think they’re in a different movie. Whilst Vogt-Roberts does infuse the film with some interesting imagery (I never thought a smash-cut to somebody eating a sandwich could be so effective) it is clear he doesn’t have a strong handle on the film’s tone or the type of story he wants to tell.
This is slightly compensated for by the action-sequences, most of which are impressive. One scene in particular involving a giant spider is just as harrowing as a comparable scene in Peter Jackson’s version. Meanwhile, some of the creature design is genuinely inventive. However, as the film progresses to its climax this imagination seems to disappear, as when the ‘Skull Crawlers’ are finally revealed they look like rejected designs for the Cloverfield monster. Furthermore, the sheer size of this film’s King Kong robs the climax of any possible tension. Also for a film that cost over $100 million, the CGI looks awfully cheap and unconvincing. This once again proving that the strength of any special effect is ultimately dependent on the emotion surrounding it.
In terms of the performances most of the actors do the best with what they’re given. The characters are paper-thin and yet numerous, with the film spending far too much time with them and far too little with the monsters. Samuel L. Jackson has the most to work with and out of the five films jostling for focus his is the most interesting. Meanwhile, Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson is given the least to work with despite the potential of her character. John C. Reilly’s performance will split audiences with some finding him the film’s saving grace. However, I found most of the film’s attempts at comic relief cringe-worthy and John C. Reilly’s character emblematic of the film’s wider problem to establish just what it wanted to be. Finally, Tom Hiddleston is PAINFULLY miscast in his role. Playing a character that’s introduced as a rogue adventurer, Hiddleston’s stiff posture and posh English accent make for an awkward presence throughout.
Ultimately, Kong: Skull Island isn’t going to win any awards for its acting or screenplay and many will go for the big monster action and leave mostly satisfied. However, even on that front, the film leaves a lot to be desired and seems to run out of ideas as it reaches its climax. Whilst there is fun to be had at the film’s expense and some genuinely effective set pieces, it spreads itself far too thin for it to be the fun romp it could have been.
Maybe ten-year old me would have liked it more.
Movie Parliament Rating: FRINGE PARTY
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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