Kong: Skull Island is the latest in a long list of King Kong movies – the last time we saw Kong on the big screen was Peter Jackson’s King Kong in 2005. Twelve years and one ambiguous attempt at a shared Monster Universe later, the true King of the Jungle has returned.
This time, Kong’s story takes place in 1973. Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Brooks (Corey Hawkins) lead an expedition to the mysterious Skull Island. The island can only be seen through satellite images and is perpetually surrounded by a storm. The official story for their trip is mapping and looking for untapped resources, but Randa is searching for something else.
Randa’s secret requires him to hire James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) who is one of the world’s best trackers, and Randa also request a military transport led by Colonel Packard (Samuel L Jackson) and his men. Along for the trip is scrappy photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson).
Once on the island, the crew is immediately greeted by Kong, who doesn’t take kindly to bombs being dropped on his island. With every helicopter down and the crew scattered across the island, they have three days to make it to the rendezvous point on the north side of the island. While making their way through the jungle, it’s not long before the group realizes Kong isn’t the scariest creature on the island.
Like most monster movies, the story requires characters to do incredibly dumb things that put everyone in danger. This was Colonel Packard’s role in the story. If Kong is Jaws, Packard is Quint. Packard is laser focused on taking down the beast and nothing else. Not getting off the island. Not getting everyone to safety. Not fighting off the other 1,000 things that can kill them. All he wants to do is take down Kong. Packard makes more than a few eye rolling decisions but they’re necessary to keep the plot moving.
Kong: Skull Island is very entertaining but an uneven movie. It’s uneven the way toddlers are uneven – smart and funny one minute, crazed little people the next. Kong is part serious monster movie and part silly B-movie. The story never commits to either, allowing it stumble along for two hours. Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Corey Hawkins, and Toby Kebbell are in a serious monster movie. They’re in a serious movie about a group of people who realize monsters are real. John C. Reily, Jason Mitchell, John Goodman, Samuel L Jackson, Shea Whigham, and Thomas Mann are in a completely different movie. They’re in the B-movie about a group of people trapped on an island with larger-than-life monsters and a comically big ape.
In theory, the serious and wacky performances could be blended to together to make an action comedy. Unfortunately here isn’t enough to make either movie believable. This recipe cooks up an under-cooked story that will leave people unsatisfied.
With all the unevenness, the movie still manages to be entertaining. For one, they get right to the action. Unlike 2014’s Godzilla, they don’t waste time showing Kong. The action and peculiar creatures dominate the screen for most of the film’s runtime.
Kong: Skull Island may not be the box office bonanza Warner Bros is hoping for, but it will be a TNT classic in a few years. It’s got an all-star cast and enough action and humor to keep audiences engaged. Fans may be disappointed the marketing makes Kong look like an action adventure, not the extremely silly action comedy it is.