The year is 1973 and the US troops are leaving Vietnam. A US senator reluctantly funds a scientific expedition to Skull Island, an uncharted island in the Southeast Asia. An expert hunter-tracker, a photojournalist, and a helicopter squadron join the scientists in the expedition, braving a cloud system of perpetual thunderstorms that covers the island. Once in, the group started dropping seismic bombs. Everything goes well until… Well, let’s just say the movie climaxes too early and never recovers.
Kong: Skull Island, the second movie in Legendary Pictures’ monster-verse, is a mishmash of old Kong movies, Apocalypse Now and Jurassic Park. Despite sharing the same fictional universe, this Kong has very little in common with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014). Kong plays more like a B-movie about war and monsters, compare to Edwards’ superb rethinking of the kaiju classic. Most of the human characters are half-written, save for John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow, whose levity counterweighs Samuel L. Jackson playing Samuel L. Jackson as Col. Preston “Man Is the Monster” Packard. Tom Hiddleston makes for one good sword-slashing sequence while Reg Slivko provides the nifty soundtrack; but it’s Brie Larson’s anti-war photojournalist that kept me awake amidst the movie’s CGI overload and utter lack of suspense. In terms of sense of wonder, there’s none except for the one brief scene involving a giant water buffalo emerging from water.
Kong: Skull Island is loud, fast, and full of in-your-face monster mayhem. That sounds really appetizing. Unfortunately, it’s undone by haphazard filmmaking that leaves not much room for tension, surprises or memorable set pieces. The best part of the movie happens thirty minutes in: one uprooted tree flies towards one of the choppers and skewers it—easily the movie’s most inventive sequence. Then, Kong appears and battles the helicopter squadron, swatting them one by one, tearing and sending them down to the ground. After that, the movie retreads the old and familiar (i.e., the movies mentioned above) and the proceeding monster battles, never reach the same highs—just a bunch of big fights we’ve already seen before.