REVIEW: 'Kong: Skull Island' Goes Big On Spectacle, Has No Time For Characters

       King Kong as a character has wowed audiences all over the world numerous times for the better part of a century, with multiple different flavors on takes along the way. The latest director to throw his hat in the gorilla-filled ring is Jordan Vogt-Roberts who charmed the pants off many a watcher with his debut ‘The Kings of Summer’ back in the brighter days of 2013. Jordan has teamed up with writers Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly to deliver a fresh new take on the giant ape with ‘Kong: Skull Island’.

       While Kong takes place in the same cinematic universe as 2014’s Godzilla, Jordan doesn’t bury the reveal of his giant beast quite like those that came before him. This film opens with a prologue of sorts that takes place during World War II that introduces us to a character who appears later as well as the star of the show. From here, ‘Kong’ jumps into several scenes that show the rag tag team that makes up the human cast being assembled and then we are off to the undiscovered Skull Island where calamity awaits!

       One of the major problems that ‘Kong’ has is shown to the audience straight away. While Vogt-Roberts has a pretty stellar cast with the likes of Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly and John Goodman to name a few, even these all-stars can’t deliver the dialogue they were given in a natural way. The premise and structure of this movie will at first lead you to believe that all involved are aware of the cheese that surrounds them, this tone is not successfully executed. When you add to this flaw the uneven pacing that plagues the story throughout, you have a film where the sum does not equal its parts.

       The sum does not equal many great parts, which means ‘Kong’ still has plenty of entertaining bits to not leave an audience completely frustrated. Every second that has King Kong on screen is fantastic! From the execution of the CGI to the amazing creature design to the pure banana-sandwich spectacle of the monster fights, all of the action bits from toe to tip deliver in a big way. While the pacing issues mentioned previously mean you have to sit through non-characters saying words at one another’s’ faces for odd stretches of time before seeing the big burly ape wreck shop again, which he does a lot. There are more soldiers and helicopters destroyed throughout this flick than are ever introduced, leading me to believe that the perpetual storm that surrounds the island produces 70s era GI Joes and equipment just so King Kong has something to go berserk on.

       Ultimately I believe that Vogt-Roberts had an interesting take on this story that failed at a script level. The structure of this story doesn’t work and is brought down even further with dialogue that creates no real character motivation or even characters for that matter. With such a talented cast and a director who has shown that they are good at putting realistic depictions of people on screen previously I have to feel that there were time constraints or studio interference that prevented Vogt-Roberts from executing exactly what he set out to do. This can be seen with his numerous nods to great films like ‘Apocalypse Now’ and even one little bit that I choose to read as an homage to ‘Oldboy’, but I could be wrong. ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is just fine enough that I’m still interested in whatever Vogt-Roberts does next as well the future of this franchise. With plenty of bits sprinkled throughout that tie this flick to our most recent Godzilla I’m now excited to see these two battle on the big screen. This film is surely worth seeing but it shouldn’t drive you too far away from your couch to see it.