Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island (2017) Cover

I am impressed by Kong: Skull Island, both as an adventure film, and a film that uses themes to move the plot. This genre has had some pretty lazy entries lately, but Skull Island changes that. The story, acting, and directing are all thrilling and smart, and they’re backed by great music. Even the monster battles feel well paced and advance the story.

We’ll set the plot aside for now and go down the checklist of what Skull Island has going for it. It’s got a well rounded cast of actors who have both range and screen presence. These aren’t career defining performances, but there is not a single weak link in the chain. The real head turners here are John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson. Even in a fairly average performance, Jackson is a compelling foil to pit face to face against King Kong. His imposing stage presence is perfect for the role, even for an average performance for him. John C. Reilly nails the comic relief for the movie. He is always a joy to find, though a lot of his jokes were in the trailers, his comedy still landed with excellent timing.

Skull Island uses the recent trick of loading up the movie with classic rock songs. The type of music that you’re guaranteed to love no matter what the quality of the movie. Musically, the film is very formulaic. You’ve heard all of these songs before, and in the exact same way, so there’s nothing new here. It’s the weakest part of the film, but it’s also not bad. The songs are used sparingly to move to set the tone and move the opening forward. Then, after the plot moves to the foreground of the movie the classic rock fades to the background a bit. This lets the movie breathe and keeps it from feeling like a bunch of trailers spliced together. That’s the most common pitfall with that technique and Kong avoids it with grace, even if it isn’t new.

Most viewers will be more interested in the action than the story. Fear not, it’s well paced, aggressive, and it never drags the film. All of the encounters feel meaningful, and do not upset the pacing. Not only that, but there are a lot of them. They are well spread throughout the experience, and help push the story along. This is something that a lot of similar movies fail at. By not balancing the ups and downs of the film, it’s easy to make a movie boring by not controlling the highs and lows. The level of competency demonstrated at controlling the pacing is downright masterful.

Lastly, the story is fantastic. Setting the movie during the Vietnam war is purposeful. It serves to create a lens by which we can see the difficulty of understanding long standing foreign conflicts from a limited point of view. The metaphor is pretty strong, and Skull Island reinforces it throughout its run time. It never hits the audience over the head with what it has to say, but there is definitively a well thought out and delivered philosophy. Viewers who enjoy a more complex experience to digest will find that here as well. It all results in a well rounded film.

The biggest criticisms are really that the movie falls on formula too often to feel genre defining. It’s a great movie, and audiences will love it, but it is missing a little something that pushes it above and beyond. That is hardly a criticism, though. I highly recommend Kong: Skull Island. It’s an awesome monster movie and also just a good action movie in general.

Final Verdict:Skull Island has fantastic action, great acting, music, and even has a few things to say. Go see it.