Del reviews ‘Kong Skull Island’

Image courtesy of Warner Brothers.

“Kong Skull Island” Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. 1 hour, 58 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Del’s take

King Kong really needs to find a Mrs. Kong, if you know what I mean.

That poor, besotten beast, trapped all alone on Skull Island without the company of a female, has developed a frightening case of blue –

Cough cough cough. Ahem! Sorry about that. I momentarily forgot about this review’s PG rating.

Suffice it to say that in many of the Kong iterations we see a lonely ape the size of  the federal deficit pining for a tiny but beautiful human woman, which ultimately leads to his demise, usually at the trigger finger of a sympathetic but competitive human male who has no intention of sharing his tiny but beautiful human woman with a giant ape, even if the giant ape is a movie star.

You don’t see that in many Plenty of Fish profiles.

In “Kong: Skull Island,” the eighth outing for the sexually frustrated mega-simian, movie fans receive a rehashing of many of the Kong tropes with a few new wrinkles that don’t add anything to the canon. But then the movie’s purpose is not to tread new ground but pave old ground for a sequel.

In “Skull Island” Bill Randa (John Goodman), a functionary in the Monarch organization (which figured into another recent giant creature movie), convinces a senator to fund a trip to Skull Island to look for, well, whatever is there – oil, uranium, or monsters.

Oh, and he needs a military escort.

That brings Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) into the picture, along with his unit of cannon fodder and one young non-com comedian (Thomas Mann). They’re joined by pacifist war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and noted tracker Loki, er, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to complete the lineup.

The group arrives aboard a fleet of helicopters that, after traversing some seriously bad weather that would have folks like you and me clutching air sickness bags like rosaries, reaches the jungle-infested canyons and scenic vistas of Skull Island. Hell immediately breaks lose and does not stop until about a hundred minutes later when the credits roll.

Pacing was off. My impression during the movie was that plot development was moving along too quickly, as if director Vogt-Roberts had taken input from an efficiency expert. Characters were hurriedly sketched, given only a short scene to establish their bonafides and histories, and then it was off to the races.

The script struck me as strangely flat. While the movie offered many funny lines, it missed what I thought were better opportunities for funnier lines. The actors had little to sink their teeth into.

John Goodman’s and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters were straight out of central casting, and as a result their particular branches of the conflict were similarly hackneyed. In fact the Jackson conceit, that of a military fanatic bent on destroying Kong, struck me as unrealistic and at times stupid.

Hiddleston and Larson were good despite the flat script, and Mann, as always, finds a way to inject life into his roles. John C. Reilly was excellent as World War II vet Hank Marlow, and his character provides the only watery-eye potential in the entire movie. Stay to the very end for that.

Many movies these days throw in an Easter egg after the credits, and you’ll need to sit through the entire run-through of credits for “Skull Island” to see which giant monster may figure into the sequel.

Overall I would grade “Skull Island” with a C+. I’ll give it high marks for a decent fight scene and monster mayhem, but low marks for clichéd characters, skimpy characterization, a threadbare script and hurried pacing.

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.


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