Hollywood never seems to get enough of these iconic characters. Be it the the third Godzilla remake in 2014 or the fourth King Kong reboot now. Hollywood is always trying to squeeze out more juice from these popular monsters. But unlike the failed Godzilla reboot in 2014, the makers of Kong: Skull Island, keep a firm hand on the storyline and the characters to restrict it from falling.
Now, all monster films fall into one of two categories: the kind that takes its time revealing the monster, and the kind that shows you the monster right away and never leaves it for long. Most versions of the King Kong story have fallen into the first category: the 1933 original, the 1976 remake, and Peter Jackson’s three-hour 2005 version unveiled the big ape gradually. Kong: Skull Island, on the other hand, introduces Kong after less than half an hour, then keeps him (and lots of other big, scary creatures) front and center throughout the film’s 118-minute running time.
The basic theme, of humans messing with mother nature and then suffering the consequences, seems over-used & over-familiar. The most recent exploration of the genre being Moana. Kong: Skull Island follows the similar theme and worse still, the films cast has some genuinely talented actors who are completely under-utilized.
The visual effects and CGI are much more advanced today than they were even a decade or so ago when Peter Jackson’s thrilling but bloated King Kong movie came out. Which means we get the most realistic and lifelike version of the skyscraper-sized primate. This might be the largest Kong on-screen till date. But to me personally, Kong’s body, did not have the characteristics of a gorilla, and at times the face seemed cartoony.
No doubt, The monsters are brilliantly designed and skillfully animated, and the army of visual and sound effects artists convince you that that these CGI titans live and breathe and weigh hundreds of tons. The title character tears into his foes with the ferocity of an MMA fighter, even using crude weapons when fists and teeth aren’t enough. Whenever the action flags, the film stirs more creatures into the humans’ meandering trip across the island, including regular-sized pterodactyls, giant insects, and a battleship-sized water buffalo that might’ve been drawn by Miyazaki. (Alas, the giant ants described by Reilly’s, is never shown).
Talking about the under-utilised actors of Kong: Skull Island, on the top of every list is Bree Larson. One can’t help but wonder, that why would she follow up her Oscar-winning turn in Room for a thankless role here as an anti-war photographer. Another signature of the King Kong movies, the classic sexual tension between woman and ape is not there as well. Tom Hiddleston as the action-hero and Samuel L Jackson’s war-hardened military commander fail. But it’s only John C Reilly who manages to squeeze in a few laughs as a crazy World War II castaway living among the natives.
I’m going with 3½/5 stars for Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s Kong: Skull Island. Though not a classic, but it won’t bore you. Also do stay on the till the end-credits for an easter egg scene which reveals how this film links to a larger ‘monsterverse’ planned ahead.