Take an island inhabited by colossal perversions of nature and add character actors. Such is the hearty recipe for “Kong: Skull Island.” It’s really an ingenious move, considering the characters are essentially walking traits, so who better to find the melody in one note than Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman or John C. Reilly.
Kong is back. And this time, it’s, well, not so personal. There’s no “beauty killed the beast” story here— although beauty does get the beast sucker-punched. Instead, this is a campy, horror flick where people get picked off, one by one, in a manner limited only by the writers’ sadistic imaginations. Those on the chopping block include, in alphabetical order, the coward, the glory-seeking colonel, the good ol’ boy, the hot chick, the madman, the nerd, the psychopath, the stud and the tin-foil hat. There’s also the usual band of redshirts, to show us how much danger the characters with names are in.
From the outset, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, director, lets us know his intentions. An American soldier and a Japanese soldier fall like ragdolls from the sky, hit the ground, look up, spot each other and enact an insane, pop art showdown. That’s Vogt-Roberts telling the audience, “anything goes, have fun.” And it’s hard not to have fun when a guy taking photographs is swallowed whole by a giant lizard, only to have his flash continually go off as he slides down the beast’s throat. It’s both amusing and terrifying, but mostly amusing.
As fun as the film can be, creature fatigue begins to set in rather quickly. There’s only so many ways in which people can be eaten/squished before you begin wondering if there’s more to this called life. Not every film needs to have an abundance of heart or brains, but only a truly talented filmmaker can ride on style alone—like, say, George Miller with “Mad Max: Fury Road.” In King Kong’s original 1933 outing, he’s a living, breathing, feeling character, and the same could be said for Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake. 2017’s Kong has more in common with Godzilla than his own cinematic ancestors, in that he’s the dumb muscle that Nature calls upon when it’s been tampered with by arrogant Man.
Of the film’s large pool of talent, Jackson is the most fun to watch, and also the most practical choice to take on King Kong. After all, Jackson has experience with both dinosaurs and snakes on a plane, which makes him an invaluable asset concerning all things deadly and/or on a plane. Goodman, on the other hand, seems to get lost in his lines, but you can hardly blame him. Find your way out of, “This planet doesn’t belong to us. Ancient species owned this earth long before mankind. I spent 30 years trying to prove the truth: monsters exist.” That’s a labyrinth of nonsense.
“Kong: Skull Island” is a B-movie through and through. You’ll probably chuckle more than you would in most comedies. What other response is Tom Hiddleston slicing lizard-bats in slow-motion while surrounded by purple, noxious gas supposed to elicit? Surely not awe? No way, can’t be. It has to be for chuckles.
3 out of 5 stars