D.C.’s Take: ‘Kong: Skull Island”

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With Hollywood’s obsession with making almost all movies somehow connected with one another to create a cinematic universe, it seems like the right time to have a universe involving one of the biggest (literally) movie monsters in all cinema: King Kong. And what better movie to bring him back than “Kong: Skull Island?” In the film, set during the Vietnam War, a team of scientists and military personnel are brought together to an uncharted island in the Pacific: Skull Island. Soon enough, they come across trouble right around the corner, in the form of the giant ape known as King Kong. Now they must find a way to get off the island to survive the dangers of Kong and some other mysterious creatures. The idea of this “Monsterverse” sounded really cool. But, it started with the 2014 reboot of “Godzilla,” which I wasn't a big fan of for the simple reason that Godzilla wasn't shown a lot in it. King Kong has been a staple of movie monsters since the 1933 classic. I even liked Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake, which I must admit isn't a great movie, but it’s still awesome. So when it came to the idea of seeing the Eighth Wonder of the World onscreen once again, this might be one of the coolest movies in this universe yet. But to be honest, “Kong: Skull Island” could've been way better than the actual expectations made it out to be. First, if you were upset that Godzilla’s screen time in his namesake movie fell short, this makes up for it. When Kong throws down with these other creatures on the island, it's so amazing. He’s just causing wreckage when these guys come to his space, (which makes me wonder why people want to attack him.) Even the design of Kong feels reminiscent of the original. Kong likes to keep to himself, but you don't just drop bombs into somebody's home unless you're picking a fight, and he’s up to fighting for his home. Just from watching, it looked like Kong was shown more than Godzilla. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts was up to direct this as his follow-up to the 2013 indie film “The Kings of Summer,” and for the time being, he does an alright job. “Kong: Skull Island” goes by at a pretty quick pace. Few scenes had too much down time. I did enjoy how Vogt-Roberts explored something different with the mythos of Kong. This isn’t like the older films where Kong climbs to the top of the Empire State Building and gets downed by airplanes. Vogt-Roberts is going for a totally different angle with the mythos. The vibe was reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, only with creatures, as it's set during Vietnam. A lot of the action sequences, including those with Kong, were well-handled. But besides those, there wasn’t much I got out of the film. Here’s why “Kong: Skull Island” didn’t work for me: The script, by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, wasn’t all that great. The story was executed the way I thought it would be, and some of the lines of dialogue were dumb and clunky, to say the least. But one of my biggest issues is the characters, because they’re so uninteresting. Yes, it’s one of those movies where you don’t need to care about them. But they aren't really developed at all. This is a great cast, but they have nothing to do. Tom Hiddleston’s character was just stoic and dashing throughout, and I didn’t see any real ounce of danger towards him. Brie Larson’s character's job in the film is to take photos, that's wasteful. Samuel L. Jackson and John Goodman were the only two that did try to carry the film along. When John C. Riley showed up, it worried me because his jokes didn't land in the second trailer. None of the jokes worked in the actual movie. He wasn't bad, but his character could've been written out. This leads me to the tone; it was kind of all over the place. It tried to be serious on one end and be comical on the other. The attempts of humor thrown in don’t mesh right. Even though it’s set in the 1970s, the movie’s music blares out and it takes me out every time. It is a good soundtrack, though. After this, will I be more excited about “Godzilla vs. Kong”? You bet I am. These are two monsters that deserve to fight each other in the most epic way possible. Let them fight. In the end, is this a fun and entertaining watch? Yes. But overall, it was disappointing, because this should’ve been an awesome movie involving one of my favorite movie monsters, but it ended up being just alright. "Kong: Skull Island" delivered on some sweet King Kong action that's there for his glory, but is ultimately flawed with weak characters, script and tone. C+
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