Loud. Fast. Fun. Those three little words best describe Kong: Skull Island. It is a movie brimming with load roars and deafening explosions. It is a movie the thinnest possible plot. It is a movie that will make you smile when a gorilla throws one helicopter into another helicopter.
If any of those points sound miserable to you, perhaps you would be better suited to stay at home and stream Manchester by the Sea, a movie that is quiet, slow and boring. Kong: Skull Island will not be in the running for Best Picture of the Year at the 2018 Academy Awards. However, it is much more enjoyable to watch than the aforementioned long-winded snooze fest.
Look. I’m not here to compare a movie about a giant furry monster smashing helicopters to a movie about a depressed man who longs to be a custodian and live in a studio apartment. Because it’s not even close. Manchester by the Sea is the most boringly told story about a man accidentally killing his family. Kong: Skull Island is the most visually spectacular story about men getting killed by monsters.
Kong: Skull Island is visually stunning. I was blown away by beautiful cinematography and convincing special effects. The visual design and artistic approach to framing shots was completely unexpected. This was aspect that surprised me the most while watching Kong: Skull Island.
In addition to looking beautiful, the movie delivers on its promises. Something that Manchester by the Sea couldn’t do. Not only did I never cry, I never came remotely close to welling up. Kong: Skull Island on the other hand forced my eyes wide open and my pupils dilated as my body submitted to the ferocious action sequences.
Action blockbuster can only be as good as there action. Kong: Skull Island delivers on that end of the deal. The movie wastes no time giving the audience what they wanted to see: Kong wrecking shit.
Kong wrecks a lot of shit.
Unfortunately, immediately getting to the action is a result of having next to zero character development. None of the characters are given a chance to become fully fleshed human beings. I guess this is where we start to see some similarities with Manchester by the Sea.
Although the big difference is that Kong: Skull Island has John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson, two humans who have semblances of charisma and give the audience personalities to root for and against. But other than those two, Skull Island, like Manchester by the Sea, is a waterfront locale populated with too many damn humans who have nothing to do.
Maybe there is a version of Kong: Skull Island where Jing Tian does something other than opening a can of food. Her singular mission in the movie seems to be getting the film through the Chinese censors. Nothing else. Her character shows up with no explanation. Maybe the Chinese version of Kong: Skull Island expands on her deep, rich background story.
Maybe there is a version of Manchester by the Sea where Lucas Hedges does something other than try to have sex with multiple girls.
Maybe there is a version of Kong: Skull Island where Brie Larson does something other than take a lot of night time photos without a flash and bond with Kong for the flimsiest reason.
Maybe there is a version Kong: Skull Island that doesn’t waste Tom Hiddleston. If Legendary Pictures wanted to trim a good chunk of their Kong-sized budget, they might’ve wanted to start with Tom Hiddleston.
Hiddleston’s character may look suave, buff and rugged, but is mostly relegated to the background and exists solely to tell the group they should travel from Point A to Point B (which he also does poorly). Something to think about: Tom Hiddleston is outplayed in an action movie by John C. Reilly. Let that sink in.
Making matters worse, the filmmakers decided to fill the remainder of the roles (of which there are way too many) with some of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood. Every time a new character is introduced you’ll spend a minute thinking, “Hey! It’s that guy from Step Brothers! What’s the guy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine doing here? He must play an important role– oh, he’s dead now.”
Did the captain of the boat need to be Walt Longmire? He’s in the movie for about two seconds.
At least Kong, the king himself, is given some character development. And in most cases, he’s developed better than his human counterparts.
Unexpectedly, Kong garners the most empathy from the audience and showcases the most developed backstory. Granted, he doesn’t have the most in-depth history and it’s all told to the audience through exposition… but it was still enough to get me invested in a giant gorilla.
It’s a lot easier to root for Kong when he’s whooping the asses of so many humans when there is a soul behind the eyes, something most of the humans severely lack. Hell, there is a giant stick bug that draws a bigger emotional reaction than either Tom Hiddleston. Yes that’s right, Tom Hiddleston is also outplayed by a giant stick bug.
I wouldn’t mind seeing that stick bug in Manchester by the Sea as well.
Overlooking the weak humans, I had a lot of fun exploring Skull Island. Unfortunately began to notice some annoying discrepancies.
If the fauna is so big, why is the flora so little? Shouldn’t there be giant trees? Where does Kong sleep? Where does he poop? Why do bodies of water vary so greatly in depth? How can Toby Kebbell wade out into a lake where a giant squid resting but still have the water go up to Kong’s ankles? How is the squid staying hidden? Are there pockets of deep caves that Kong is stepping around?
How deep is the water?!
I don’t know. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. When a movie stars a gigantic ape, there’s no real point in debating the inconsistencies of water depth. Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie. Your brain should be shut off anyway. Instead, just sit back and enjoy the fact that a giant CGI monster says more with his expressions and roars than Casey Affleck can muster in Manchester by the Sea when he just repeats “I don’t wanna talk about it” ad nauseam.