Thomas Cowley, March 10, 2017, at 7:00 a.m. Tweet to: @boldirishman – Originally published on Slickster Magazine & Rain Man Digital Media
Do you remember 2005’s prophetically titled movie Doom, an adaptation of the video game of the same name? Do you remember the First Person Shooter scene where Karl Urban’s character roams the hallways in what looks like a shitty rail shooter worth of a SEGA Genesis for about 5 minutes? The sequence was a big deal at the time because it was an homage to the original game. Many fans went nuts for the entire gimmick with some saying that the sequence save the movie for them. It still bombed, but they enjoyed it at least. But in a movie adaptation of a first person shooter, there was only one scene like that. Kong: Skull Island has four; that I care to remember. Honestly, that should be about all I have to say for you to know whether or not you will like this movie. If that sounds cool to you, then yeah, you will like Kong. If that sounds dumb and annoying to you, then yeah, you will find Kong to be dumb and annoying.
Let me get the good out of the way so that those of you determined to burn $12 seeing this thing, either by choice, or perhaps by gunpoint, can get back to your lives after reading this paragraph. If you liked 2014’s Godzilla but thought it was too slow and it took too long for the scaly bastard to show up to the party, then Kong: Skull Island will be a nice change of pace for you. If you liked Pacific Rim and Jurassic World but thought there was too much unnecessary story and talking, then you will probably enjoy this primate punch up as well. The visuals are well done and the entire island has a great amount of variety to it with a host of interesting creatures. It’s big, it’s dumb, and it will give you everything you’ve wanted, not unlike your mom.
However, while Kong never tries to be anything other than a low brow blockbuster, it also never tries to be a film either. Instead, Kong wants so badly to be a video game that I can practically see the token RPG elements. There are slow motion sequences, first person sequences, they fly into a dangerous storm with the helicopter doors wide open (a widely mocked video game trope), and bits and piece are taken out of recent popular shooters. Every minute of it does not lead into a cohesive narrative, but simply leads us to the next set piece for our idiot characters to stumble into. It never stops. I felt visually assaulted by Kong: Skull Island. I say visually assaulted because it cannot be watched like a normal movie. Instead, it seems to have graduated as the valedictorian from the Michael Bay School of Film and Kick-Ass Explosions. If you are not experiencing something explode, crash, get shot, beat up, maimed, or eaten, then you either got up and left, realizing you had something better to do like your taxes; or you have fallen into an epileptic fit as a result of one of the numerous explosions. Godzilla, while not a perfect movie by any means, at least built tension and suspense throughout the movie ultimately leading us to a well-deserved reveal of the legendary God of Monsters that feels truly satisfying. By comparison, Kong blows its metaphorical wad in the first two minutes, showing us the great ape up close and personal and leaving nothing to the imagination. I haven’t seen suspense thrown out the window that fast since Furious 7 threw a car from one building into another.
When the film does finally calm down, what’s left is so idiotic I begin to miss the explosions. In the previous paragraph I called the cast “idiot characters” instead of their actual names because none of them where unique or engaging enough to fucking remember. There is the handsome one, the funny minority, the redneck, the kid, the crazy refugee, the commander who is slowly losing it, the nerd, the professor and of course, the hot girl. Did I read off the cast or did I describe a spin-off of Gilligan’s fucking Island? Who cares! None of them matter and their only character traits is what shows up on their nametag. And each one of them is an idiot in their own way. For example : When the trained military, fresh from the horrors of Vietnam, first encounter Kong they circle around him and open fire despite how easily he swats them out of the sky. They lose several vehicles and at least a dozen men doing this and yet still they circle around him at the same height, floating in the air like fat mosquitos that have completely stopped giving a shit. They even manage to crash their helicopters into each other with little effort on Kong’s part. I understand Kong is meant to come across as intimidating, but it simply isn’t believable and immediately makes our characters look like incompetent buffoons. It doesn’t say much about the commander’s military prowess when he would be out-maneuvered by a fucking pigeon during commute traffic because the pigeon has enough sense to pull the fuck up.
Kong: Skull Island is a dumb monster movie with some good special effects, some interesting creature designs and plenty of action. If that is all you want then you will have a good time at the movies this weekend. However, if you look for something more from your entertainment like memorable characters, a captivating story, effective pacing, or you simply hate Michael Bay style action, then steer clear. While Kong: Skull Island is not the worst thing made by a long shot, it feels like yet another beautiful looking yet soulless presentation of something we already have that was done better. While Peter Jackson’s King Kong had some serious issues, it is clear he was still trying to make something unique and memorable as a filmmaker whereas Kong: Skull Island just wants to look good and cash a check. It’s the difference between those who loved Jurassic Park for it amazing technology, brilliant direction and heartfelt and engaging story, and those who like Jurassic World because it’s new and shiny.