Samuel L. Jackson flies to King Kong’s island? Hold on to your butts! Kong: Skull Island is not just another new King Kong movie. It is part of an effort to create a cinematic universe that will tie the King Kong and Godzilla movies together in the years to come. This movie is therefore not a rehash of the old King Kong from the 1930s, nor another remake like Peter Jackson’s King Kong from 2005. Kong: Skull Island is more like an origin story. Now, we don’t get to see big Kong as a little baby Kong. We don’t get to see how he grew so big. But we do see what he was up to, all those years on Skull Island.
This was much better than I thought it would be. Sure, the characters are all very flat, but this film is a rollercoaster ride that knows what it is and what it wants to be. The film excels where it should excel: in the action, in the adrenaline-pumping story that gives tantalizing bits of world-building. In the weight of the CGI. King Kong and the monsters look like they have weight to them. The physics feel real. The landscapes are stunning. Shot in Vietnam, in particular in Ha Long Bay, and in Hawaii, using the same island as was used in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.
The best part of the film is when all our characters are stranded on the island and encounter one giant creature after the other. I started to feel queasy myself in that jungle, even though I love tropical locations. King Kong himself isn’t in the movie that much, just like Godzilla hardly featured in his own movie in 2014. He does seem to get bigger with every film. But then again, if the first movie was set in 1933 and this one is set after the Vietnam war, then Kong might have grown during those 40 years. Who knows how big he might become?
The thing is, it’s surprising how there are little touches of competence in this movie that you just wouldn’t expect from – let’s be honest – a dumb Hollywood blockbuster. There are touches of comedy and certain shots and camera angles that deserve a bit of admiration. Even though the story is as simple and dumb as could be, those little moments of awesomeness come so much as a shock that I’m prepared to give this movie a higher rating than it might deserve.
But let’s not focus too much on all the dumb moments, even though I am going to mention them now. The characters all make dumb decisions. The military guys should be more respectful and fearful about nature and just smarter about their mission. It would have helped their survival. The appearance of John C. Reilly was funny but rather too convenient for the survivors. Talking about those survivors, Tom Hiddleston’s character didn’t show any experience in tracking. There is also a token Chinese girl who spoke like two lines in total. Totally redundant. It’s nothing to get mad about. Just laugh about these flaws.
So, yes, a very flawed film but which can definitely be enjoyed if you just want to have a good time and see some monsters. This was way better than Independence Day: Resurgence (2016), for example.