Following in the rather large footsteps of 2014’s Godzilla reboot is Kong: Skull Island, taking us back to the 70’s and introducing everyone’s favourite giant ape. Godzilla came out to mixed but mostly positive reception back in 2014, and the buzz around Kong was similar, with both films sitting between 70% and 80% on the Rotten Tomatoes scale everyone loves these days.
Kong delivers most of what you’d expect in a movie with that name, and that is just about it. There are no surprises here, the plot is predictable, all the human characters are pretty paper-thin and each member of the cast gives a suitably by the numbers performance.
One of the stranger things I found with Kong is the lack of any real lead character. Most of the time in a film there is either an ensemble cast that come together to form a stable of lead characters (Guardians of the Galaxy), or there is a clear one or two characters who are the focus of the film with side characters around the central figures (La La land). Kong is closer to the latter, but without the leads. With Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, Brie Larson, John C Reilly and John Goodman just 5 of the quite large cast, you would think with all that talent available it isn’t unreasonable to have expected some more interesting characters rather than the bland selection we ended up with.
Despite the undoubted talent of the cast, you could replace them with any other 5 actors and actresses without changing the film much at all. The exception being that the way Samuel L Jackson delivers the word “Bitch” simply cannot be bettered. I do feel there was more in these characters ready to be explored if desired. Sam Jackson’s military commander feeling like his country had abandoned a war too early in Vietnam just one example of where a characters mindset could have been explored a little more.
All of these are small problems with the films lack of depth in terms of character development and story telling. Whilst I could have done with more in the way of a less predictable story, the human characters are not the reason I buy a ticket to see Kong: Skull Island. I buy a ticket to see a giant ape kick some ass, and there is plenty of that here.
Kong learns from the mistakes of Godzilla and doesn’t mess around when it comes to letting you see the big guy in action. Where in Godzilla there was a cut away from the action every time the monsters were fighting, Kong sticks the camera right on them and doesn’t move until the fight is over. Yes it is just CGI monsters punching, kicking and biting each other. Yes it is undeniably silly. But it is great fun to watch. The CGI is as good as we have come to expect from our movies these days, and as a result watching Kong fight has never looked so good. It’s mad to think how far this franchise has come from the days of being a puppet in black and white.
Kong: Skull Island steps outside the traditional King Kong tale we all know, and we get to see some serious monster smashing fun. Just don’t expect too much aside from the punches and explosions.
6/10 – Big, Dumb, Monkey Fun.