Kong: Skull Island is, quite simply, an unnecessary movie. At best, it might have paved the way for a revival of its title character in the form of a multi-movie franchise. At worst, it may have added its name to the very long list of Hollywood remakes that do more to tarnish their original versions than they do to celebrate them. Kong: Skull Island leans far more to latter than the former, unfortunately. I say unfortunately in a sincere way, too; I grew up on the likes of King Kong, Godzilla, and all the mythical creatures of Greek mythology put on full display in the many Ray Harryhausen films, and so I really wanted to like this movie. If nothing else, I figured a couple of hours of good entertainment. But I think it failed even from that perspective.
Not that it’s all bad. The special effects are top-notch (way, way better than previous Kong movies thought they are, of course, very CGI heavy), the 1970’s setting had the feel of authenticity, and the initial premise as we are introduced to the characters is intriguing. Bill Randa, played by John Goodman, is seeking funding from the U.S. government to mount an expedition to a previously uncharted island which he has dubbed Skull Island because of it’s shape in satellite photos. With the funding secured, Randa sets out to build his team, which consists of a couple of dozen military personnel led by Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Preston Packard; a photographer, Mason Weaver, played by Brie Larsen; and all-around bad ass, ex-British special forces tracker, James Conrad, played by Tom Hiddleston. This tour de force sets out for the island aboard a cargo ship loaded with enough helicopters to fill an aircraft carrier. Once there, they encounter Kong, get their butts kicked, then spend the rest of the movie trying to survive the island’s perils while making their way to a rendezvous point and eventual escape.
On the surface, Kong: Skull Island had promise. What really kills it, however, is the characters. Samuel L. Jackson is idiotically and for no good reason hell-bent on killing Kong to the point of dooming his own men if that’s what it takes. Brie Larsen takes a lot of pictures but really doesn’t do much else. But she at least does more than Tom Hiddleston, who besides for shooting his gun ineffectively a handful of times really does nothing else and has no purpose for being in the movie other than that his name on the billing might have drawn in a few more suckers. John Goodman gets the ball rolling in that he puts together the expedition and gets everyone to the island, but he, like many others, doesn’t do a whole lot else other than die by getting pulverized, blown-up, or eaten.
While I held out hope for at least an entertaining monster flick, the flat or far too stereotypical characters, pointless storyline, gratuitous helicopter shots, and so-so directing ultimately killed it for me. If you’re looking for a worthy Kong movie, go back to the 1976 version starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange. You won’t be wowed by the special effects, but it’s a classic take on a classic story and, unlike this modern version, there are real character arcs, a good storyline, and even a love triangle of sorts.