Kong: Skull Island (2017)


  • Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
  • Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson
  • Written by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein
  • Adventure, Action
  • PG-13
  • 120 mins
  • 10 March 2017


Kong: Skull Island tells the story of a 1970’s science expedition to an uncharged island to explore the unknown geological (and mythological) features of the island with the help of a Vietnam War helicopter squadron, an ex-British special forces tracker, and an anti-war photographer.

How’s the Story?

The story is, admittedly, pretty light on plot. It’s very straightforward. No real story development or plot twists are in this film, but it is still an enjoyable story even if it is very simplistic. Expedition is put together, people go to island and drop bombs, big monkey gets pissed at them, they try to make their way to the pickup point, find old WW2 pilot, discover big monkey isn’t actually the bad guy here, Samuel L. Jackson goes nuts cause he just hates the monkey, good guys save big monkey from Samuel L. Jackson, actual bad monsters show up, monkey fights monster, people escape.

Nothing special, but it’s still a coherent plot at least, so you get from point A to point B without any real issues, though also without any real major developments.

How’s the Acting?

I actually really enjoyed the acting given how little plot there really is in this film. Samuel L. Jackson is always the “Angry Guy Who Has Few Shits To Give” but he was actually pretty believably insane in this one. He wasn’t just Samuel L. Jackson in any of his many roles that are similar, he was THIS character. He probably gave the best performance of the film. All of the soldiers really gave pretty good performances. They were more of a group of side characters, but they all gave pretty good performances. Shea Whigham as Cole was really good, actually. He’s one of those guys that everybody has seen in something, and yet this was still a unique character, not just one of his ‘regular’ performances.

Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston were both decent, but honestly it felt more like they were there to have a few more recognizable names and faces for the publicity, really. I think that has more to do with direction than it does their performances, though.

Really, the standout here was John C. Reilly as far as performances go. I did not expect him to be so believable. I’m used to this guy being ‘the funny dumb guy’ in everything, and I really bought Marlow as a character. He was endearing and lovable and it was absolutely Reilly’s performance that made him so.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

As we established with the plot-light story, this film probably doesn’t have the best writing I’ve seen, but it’s serviceable. It’s nothing offensively poorly done. The screenplay won’t be winning any awards anytime soon, but it had its moments where I really enjoyed it. I would say that my favorite things would be the humorous lines. They really do work. The whole auditorium kept chuckling and giggling at all the funny stuff. The biggest reaction was from the “Washington will never be more of a mess than this”, which made me full on cackle. I also got a little choked up when Marlow was talking about how he and Gunpei Ikari became brothers until one of the lizard monsters got him. So the film wasn’t horribly written in pieces, it was just the overall plot that was very simple.

The direction, I think is to blame for a lot of the bigger issues in the film. There is little explanation of the motivations of a lot of the characters. We get expository moments that tell us something, but that something is never really expanded upon. John Goodman’s character is very one-dimensional and he is never given any moments to put any feeling whatsoever into what we discover is meant to be a revenge plot on his part. The same goes for Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston. They both are very flat. Larson’s character is “woman who wants to do the right thing” and Hiddleston’s is “British guy paid to do shit”. Neither of them really have any sort of depth and they don’t have any real moments where their characters are more than just set pieces for the story.

I don’t know much about Vogt-Roberts, but I would go out on a limb and say he isn’t exactly Scorsese.

How’s the Cinematography?

One thing this film does VERY WELL is cinematography. This is a pretty film. I love the choices in camera angles for so many scenes, and I love the colors as well. There are shots that aren’t the greatest CGI, sure, but for the actual shots, there are some really interesting ones. I love all of the choices to go through Larson’s character’s camera lens, for example. It’s not very unique, but it feels more appropriate in this film than in some others where I’ve seen this choice done. It’s just a pretty film and I really appreciate that.

Is It Worth Watching?

Kong: Skull Island isn’t likely to make it onto anybody’s Top 10 lists, but it’s definitely worth watching. It’s a fun movie with great humor and some semi-decent moments of genuine pathos, even if the plot is very thin and the story rather incomplete. It’s a good popcorn movie. It’s the type of film you put on because you want to see a fun film without having to think too hard. It’s also worth noting that this film is pretty diverse and though there are only two women in the film, neither of them are ‘the hot chick eye candy’, they both have actual purposes in the film. It’s really satisfying.

If nothing else, see it for the soundtrack. This film has a very heavy-handed mix of diegetic and non-diegetic music from the seventies (complete with record players carted all over the place in this film) and it’s all good music. It’s got enjoyable action, funny moments, great tunes, and pretty shots to look at, so it’s worth seeing even if it probably won’t be one of your favorite films of the year.

My Rating: 6/10

About J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.
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2 Responses to Kong: Skull Island (2017)

  1. Micah Hardin says:

    Fairly good review for the movie. No plot twist? The amount of backstory contained in simple off hand comments for future movies is huge and borrowed from a wide array of source material ranging from Lovcraft, HG wells, and Vern to Shakespeare. Though not of great significance in this Movie, the Hollow earth plot twist provides enough future for a Godzilla sized universe of Giant monsters. It accomplished far more in the way of setting the stage for future movies than Godzilla did and in just 118 minutes. This movie is light on plot because it is a small part of greater Epic. Think of it as a single installment in a greater story arch. In its case it would be a mistake to develop the plot too far, too early in the story arch. Unlike Godzilla, it does not try to go too far into the human characters either. Fans of giant monsters have no interest in the affairs of ordinary small people which inundated Godzilla. That only serves to detract from the real star. A traditional critical review using the standards generally employed is a complete misunderstanding of what the movie is. But even using those missaplied critical standards, the movie fairs well,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks!

      I would disagree that the movie shouldn’t be judged as standing alone. Every film, even parts of a series, should stand on its own as well. But, I agree with you on the ‘the monster is the main character’ point, especially in this film. Like I said, I wasn’t that bothered by the lack of character building, but it did take away from the story.

      You can’t just have so many characters and try to make us care about them – and fail in doing that – if they aren’t worth being developed characters.

      Also, it was never made clear outside of reading things about the film that its meant to be part of a series, which is a major flaw in that way of looking at it. It doesn’t seem like a film setting up for a series. I would wager most people don’t even KNOW it’s meant to be part of a series, since most people don’t read about films the way those of us in the film community do. They just see a trailer and decide to go see it. This film absolutely in no way sets up to the idea that it’s going to even have a sequel, nonetheless be part of a series. So if we’re meant to look at it from that criteria, it would be a worse review than I give it.

      It’s a fun movie and I liked it, and to me that’s all that really matters.


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