A while back, I wrote a review praising the wondrous job Jordan Vogt-Roberts did on Kings of Summer and not to say Kong is bad, but the decision to not do anything unexpected and beyond what a monster-flick/cash-grab asks for, pins it down in the depths of mediocrity. Its almost as if they were being careful about not going above and beyond like a child who’s told not to color outside the lines, the ultimate picture that kid draws won’t be bad because he didn’t take any risks and stuck to the format, but it will also not be special because its a clone image of all the other images kids illustrated with a simple variation in color.
From the writing stage, I’m really confused about what happened considering Dan Gilroy wrote this film. Yes, the guy who wrote Nightcrawler participated in crafting this and his work is nowhere to be found. I guess that’s because he wrote alongside Derek Connolly (Jurassic World) and Max Borenstein (Godzilla), writers who have transformed the modern monster flick into a commercial formula that is positively working, but getting awfully repetitive. When I first watched Jurassic World I gave it a positive review, but looking back on it I’ve come to realize the film resides in the same space Kong does, that same formula in which you input “characters”+monster showdowns and you get an absurd amount of money in return.
The reason I put characters in quotations in my last paragraph, is because there aren’t any to be found in this film. There’s archetypes that suggest why we should care for a certain somebody, but they’re never given enough depth so we actually care for them. It’s enough to keep you watching, but not enough to keep you caring about what you’re watching. That being said, there is somebody in this film that stands as the sole reason people went to go watch, King Kong. Curiously enough, its also the only reason this film lands in mediocre territory and not train-wreck territory.
There are a few things I cannot criticize this film for the biggest of those things in King Kong. The vision they have for King Kong in this film is simply awesome. He’s huge, buff, and presents pure power over Skull Island. Every scene involving him is pretty cool, even an involuntarily tribute to Oldboy in which Kong munches down a live giant octopus. Surely that’s enough to sell you on the awesome interpretation of Kong in this film. Regarding the other that I cannot criticize from this film, those would have to be cinematographer’s Larry Fong’s work and the always great, John C. Reilly. While the marketing campaign and whoever was in charge of assembling the soundtrack felt like they were jamming the Apocalypse Now feel down the film’s throat, Fong beautifully payed tribute to the Coppolla’s vision of the Vietnam war by using his camera. Meanwhile, John C. Reilly’s comedic sensibilities were the only ones that landed throughout those awful “Dear Billy…” jokes that were thrown about the film.
All in all, Kong: Skull Island isn’t bad, it’s exactly what you’d expect from this type of film an d nothing more. The fact that it’s nothing more is precisely what hurts it, its lack of ambition makes it disposable and if it weren’t for its epic portrayal of Kong, this film would rapidly be forgotten.