Saturday, March 18, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Review #1,422






THE SCOOP
Director:  Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast:  Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman
Plot:  A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Awards:  -
Runtime:  118min
Rating:  PG13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language
Distributor:  Warner Bros

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“Is that a monkey?”

We had Godzilla (2014), which was pretty good, and I enjoyed it.  I have a soft spot for huge creatures that go on a rampage.  Kong: Skull Island is thus right down my alley, but it is nowhere near the gold standard of Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005), still the definitive Kong movie in my books, even if the 1933 original had an old-world stop-motion charm of its own. 

The latest one is a setup to a clash-of-the-titans type picture, currently scheduled for 2020, and tentatively-titled Godzilla vs. Kong, well not before Godzilla: King of Monsters (2019) makes its way to the big screen first.  As an early blockbuster release, Kong: Skull Island is more than welcome, but you won’t come out of it feeling like you need to see it again.  It is a mildly serviceable movie, and doesn’t push itself to be a great work of screen entertainment.

Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, and many more, are part of the ensemble cast, but one would feel that there are too many characters and too little meat to make a pie big enough to feed everyone.  The movie is thin on story and characterization, and you could tell where they wear so thin that convenient plot devices or a muttering of words from a character would turn the tables for the narrative. 

Goodman is especially wasted as a character, who gets the gears rolling in the first act, but grows increasingly redundant as the movie plays on.  Hiddleston and Larson make do with a lacklustre and predictable script, while Jackson’s character is a one-dimensional warmonger.  Reilly, however, is the saving grace.  He plays the most fully-realized character, with an arc worth investing in.  In fact, his is a character very much as important as Kong.

So the story goes: the team, each member with a different motive, heads to an unchartered island and find themselves being battered by Kong and a host of other big, aggressive creatures.  But this is a movie with a pacifist message, espousing the notion of peaceful co-existence.  Kong, brilliantly rendered by CG technology, gives us enough chest-thumping roars to want to root for him.  If you need to get your monster fix, Kong: Skull Island delivers on spectacle and thrills, but expect a lot less in other departments.

Verdict:  A King Kong movie with a pacifist message—thin on story and characterization, but big on spectacle and thrills.

GRADE: C+






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