Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: "Kong: Skull Island" is blockbuster ridiculousness, but is it too much?

Kong: Skull Island Review

I'm a little perplexed sitting here tonight.

I saw "Kong: Skull Island" last night. I was incredibly excited to see it, a movie I felt was high on my must-see list for the year. I love this resurgence of monster movies, and I thought after "Godzilla" a few years ago, this sub-genre was heading in the right direction. "Kong: Skull Island" is full of great actors, including Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Corey Hawkins, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Shea Whigham, and John Ortiz. I liked the idea, that this Kong story was going to go in a different direction than the usual story we see in King Kong movies. So I figured, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, despite all the good actors and some big money shots, "Kong: Skull Island" is shockingly lifeless. If you are wondering if you want to see it, let me just tell you, you've seen it. If you saw "Godzilla" in 2014, you've seen "Kong: Skull Island." Oh sure, "Kong: Skull Island" takes place during the Vietnam War, yes a giant gorilla isn't a giant lizard. But trust me, if you saw 2014's "Godzilla," you have seen "Kong: Skull Island." There is a government cover-up lead by John Goodman's character, there was a character trying to get revenge after loosing a loved one, Kong is more of a force of nature than anything else, and near the end its revealed that he's actually a "hero" if you really want to get technical. All "Kong: Skull Island" was missing was Samuel L. Jackson saying "LET THEM FIGHT, MOTHERFUCKER!" There is really no need to get into the plot of the movie, because its so blatantly obvious.

Sure, I get it. They are rebooting the franchise. Yes, there are plenty of movies that are built on the spines of others. But its so obliviously clear that this is copying "Godzilla's" success that it almost seems phony. The movie is only partially a "Godzilla" prototype. The part of the movie is being similar to "Jurassic Park." A hot island, full of otherworldly wildlife, and a group of humans are just trying to survive. Yep, that's the big reboot model, a bunch of humans on an island just trying to survive. Again, it has this massive feeling of "Been there, done that."

None of that prepared me for when John C. Reilly showed up, as a man who has been trapped on the island for an insanely long time. I usually welcome John C. Reilly's participation in anything, and i can tell he's trying to be relevant here. But his character weighs him down. He's character is so completely out-of-place that his story feels like it belongs in a different movie. "Kong: Skull Island" has so many moments that feel out-of-place that its almost comedy. There are some "Apocalypse Now" riffs that made me so confused that I didn't know whether to laugh and stare at the screen in wonder of what I would witness. Sometimes, blockbusters benefit from being a little on the simpler side, this has so much going on and so many characters to keep track of, and they are all so poorly explored that I wonder what the point was.

Its really not all bad. "Kong: Skull Island" is a movie made up of moments. I think King Kong himself looks pretty damn amazing. The great cast throws themselves into this, clearly having fun with what they are doing. Like I said, there are some big money shots that will have your eyes melting in glee. There are some adventurous scenes that will leave you discussing them until summer rolls in. But honestly, its just not enough. All the other elements of the film are so pedestrian, that the movie never has any life. The characters are all just types, with ticks and mannerisms instead of characterization. Its pieces of other movies all searching for a whole movie. I don't mind when action movies are just the sum of other movies parts, but "Kong: Skull Island" has no story to tell. So I have  a hard time caring about any of it.

Too bad, I didn't want the potential "Kong vs Godzilla" thing on thin ice already.


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