“Kong: Skull Island” directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a sci-fi/fantasy/action film revolving around an expedition team journeying toward an uncharted island initally for surveying but it is later found that the team’s true mission is hunting the titular iconic monster King Kong. Along the way, our protagonists encounter creatures both friendly and not so friendly as they try to make it off the island back home. The film stars Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad, a former British Soldier, specialising in hunter-tracker skills, Brie Larson as Mason Weaver, a photojournalist who searches for more than the mundane, Samuel L. Jackson as Preston Packard, a U.S. Army Colonel who wishes to kill Kong with soldiers played by Thomas Mann, Shea Whigham and others. John Goodman as Bill Randa, a government official who organizes the expedition. and John C. Reily who plays Hank Marlow for a majority of the film with Will Brittain playing his younger self.
Most prominently features was both Tom Hiddleston’s character and Brie Larson’s characters. James Conrad and Mason Weaver. From the outset both seemed like interesting characters, him being a former soldier who’s seen serious things and her being a photojournalist who wants more. However, when it came time for any chance of character development during the movie’s downtime, it was missed. Chemistry was rather paper-thin and proved itself as a missed opportunity. That said though, lesser actors than Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston would have stumbled further in this movie. This was especially seen with the side characters.
Further issues with how the human characters were played off as one-note were seen with characters such as Bill Randa all the way to the pair of scientists added in the form of San Lin (Jing Tian) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) as well as a large number of soldiers accompanying Packard in the movie, All pretty much played to a one-note stereotype related to who they were in the movie. it had no real consequence to me when any of them were killed off.
However there were two characters within the movie that should have rather been relegated to the position of the main character rather than the attractive bankable leads of Hiddleston and Larson. These are Preston Packard and Hank Marlow. Both of these characters had fleshed out developed
arcs by the end of this movie. Both also represent the two sides of humanity’s view of nature and the natural world (represented by the mega-ecosystem) in a way which adds a layer too the film. Reily’s character represents a harmonious relationship with nature and how we should respect it. However Jackson’s character represents the side of man that wants to control and perhaps defeat nature. Sadly it kills him in the end. It was a shame that both of these characters weren’t at the forefront.
Both of these characters were also the most humanized of the main cast as well. Regarding Marlow, it was easier to relate to him compared to the attractive bankable leads. He presented himself with easy to understand character motivations and humanity for audiences to latch onto. Regarding Packard, seeing his men die all around him in flames coupled with quick cuts to Samuel L. Jackson’s “angry eyes” easily built up a some what relatable hatred for the titular beast much easier than audiences attempting to engage with the Hiddleston/Larson romance plot.
One other major bonus of the movie would be the visual effects placed into the movie as well as creature design. This movie coupled with 2014’s Godzilla movie intends to set up a cinematic universe where monsters reign supreme. Therefore creature design was a paramount factor in making this film work. They succeed very much in doing so by creating unique and fearsome creatures that spring out of imaginations of the folk behind this film. I rather enjoyed the screentime Kong was on the screen and at odd moments found that he had a bit of a personality conveyed through the motion capture done by Terry Notary. It was said that he tried to play Kong like a “14 year old that’s trapped in the life of an adult”. I most definitely saw that through this adolescent Kong presented. Action involving the creatures was also well done. It felt immersive and larger than life as you would expect from a movie about King Kong. The same could not be said for some of the action involving the lead actors.
Overall, I felt that Kong: Skull Island was a decent movie that had moments that succeeded and failed. It adds to the world that they are setting up in a multi-film franchise through its own mythology and and sets the tone for how Kaiju action will be approached. The human characters weren’t really worth investing in and those that were did not get the spotlight they deserved.