It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a video game.
Whose Line is it Anyway?
So how you view this movie totally depends on who you think the protagonist is.
If you believe it’s any of the human characters, then it’s whichever of their perspectives you agree with that drives the story. If you think it’s Kong himself, he’s certainly presented as the sacrificial hero of the piece above all others. But it’s all an excuse to put some (admittedly good) CGI work on the screen, and not much else. It’s a huge, multimillion dollar video game that you can’ t play. You just watch. You could also make the argument that the title is telling the truth: the island itself, with all its wonders and perils (mostly perils) is the centerpiece.
Remember when The Phantom Menace came out?
We thought that it was going to be the beginnings of the Skywalker family and the Republic and it was…but. We discovered to our eternal chagrin that George Lucas wanted to put some fancy CGI on the screen, and constructed a (very weak) plot as an excuse to do so. (Samuel L. Jackson was in that one too.) That’s what Kong: Skull Island is, with full Hollywood stereotypes and tropes front and center. I’ll mark them with (HT) for “Hollywood Trope.”
Come With Me. No it’ll be great really, I promise
The premise is the exact same one as Jurassic Park. (Sam Jackson was in that one too, are we sensing a pattern here?) The time is 1973, but that’s only really relevant for one character honestly. Or maybe they did it to keep the weapons tech at a certain level. In any event, mankind is once again sticking its infernal nose in where it doesn’t belong. John Goodman plays the John Hammond character, this time named Bill Randa. It is more important to him to be proven right, that there are monsters in the world, than anything else(HT). Ego + hubris + science. “A place where myth and science meet.” So he’s willing to lie, cheat, steal, whatever to get people to go on this clearly suicidal expedition. Their plan is to use bombs to seismically disturb the ground and map it with their sensors. Randa neglects to tell them about Kong, so meeting him is a surprise to everyone but Randa himself. Good news is that he gets the fate that Hammond should’ve gotten: he gets crunchalated by one of the SkullWalkers.
Angry Military Man
Samuel L. Jackson plays Colonel Packard, the traumatically stressed soldier who’s determined to make war if there is none, and see enemies even when they’re allies(HT). Packard doesn’t take kindly to the fact that Kong slaughtered their entire helicopter party on their way in. But you can’t fault Kong for that. He was defending his turf from a proven hostile force. So Packard becomes hellbent on destroying Kong as an act of vengeance for his fallen men. He even says his signature line from Jurassic Park, “hold onto your butts.” Hah that was great! His character however is a complete PAIN in the BUTT throughout the whole movie because he won’t listen to reason. He draws on the civilians more than once in his mad quest to kill the King.
The Professor and Mary Anne
Then there’s the rest. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson as actors are completely wasted in this movie. They are just there to provide the twenty-something pretty model people(HT). It is impossible to take them seriously, because they always know they can’t die. They know they have main character pretty people powers. Hiddleston even once takes off a gas mask before the gas is fully dissipated and nothing happens. Every single challenge they face, those two aren’t even worried. Hiddleston literally doesn’t get a scratch on him in the whole film. Get that picture in your head: the trained soldiers are pissing their pants, and the pretty people are at the forefront fighting the monsters in tank tops with flares and swords(HT). And she keeps taking those annoying pictures.
There’s also a scene where she touches Kong. And of course he is instantly charmed by the one brief touch of the pretty young curvaceous American woman(HT). She cries when they leave him for good. Of course she does. I’m sure Kong found her Tumblr page online. Because they so bond from the magic power of her one touch. Y’know, in that it’s-not-bestiality-when-it’s-pretty-young-girls kind of way. I guess Emma Watson’s got a movie out right now with that too, doesn’t she?
Of course they have to have at least one black dude. Here there’s two. Mills, the black soldier is funny, cracking all the Kevin Hart/Katt Williams/Chris Rock type jokes(HT). The black nerd is Brooks, played by the same guy that was Heath on The Walking Dead. He’s got a lot of the super intelligent scientific jargon so they can’t be accused of having only ghetto type black people(HT). Whatever. In a surprising twist, they even throw in a Japanese girl, which becomes more relevant towards the end. That character’s name is San, and she actually sounds like the Asian characters of that era would(HT). I also need to mention that neither of the girls are in any danger, ever. They never get hurt, because the movie is released in 2017. So the women must show that they are equal and/or superior to the men at all points and escape all harm. Which they do, because black nerd guy can’t even open a can of tuna without cutting himself. But of course San can. With ease.
Is this the Red Shirt Convention?
So of course, there are plenty of no-name military characters for the island monsters to eat(HT). Because why else would they be there? It is impossible to discover anything on Earth in a sci fi movie that doesn’t include something with fourteen rows of teeth(HT). So riffing on Aliens as always, there are the prerequisite soldiers. Except in Aliens the characters were memorable. Not so here. I don’t think there have actually been memorable soldiers since the Cameron film. The ones that die all die gruesomely too. Of course they do. As does the one civilian who keeps harping on how he has to get home. Has he ever watched a sci fi movie? Doesn’t he know you can’t keep saying “you’ve gotta get me out of here” without it painting a death mark on his forehead(HT)? He gets eaten by ugly birds by the way. And by eaten I mean torn apart first and eaten alive.
Yoda. You seek Yoda.
The best character in the whole movie bar none was Hank Marlow. He’s the wise old character in the know(HT), that explains everything to our intrepid explorers and thus the audience. He’s funny, he’s always right, and he’s got a backstory that makes us love him. Turns out he’s from Chicago(me too!) and loves the Cubs and Wrigley Field. And he dreams of a huge Chicago style hot dog and a cold brew. How can you not love this guy? He’s been there since World War II. Twenty-seven long years. He was taken in by (or at least made peace with) the indigenous island people, characterized as Iwis. “Native” people are always basically aboriginal(HT). Thankfully, Marlow guides the band of outsider idiots through every peril. He survives using his sword and his wits. And his custom made plane boat that “looks like a big piece of tetanus.” HAH! He does make it back home to his patient and dutiful wife(WWII HT) and now grown son that he’s never met before(WWII HT). And he does indeed get to have his dream food while watching a game. Best human part of the whole movie.
The Monster Mash
The monsters really shine throughout this whole film. They quite remind me of Shadow of the Colossus, one of my favorite vide games. The CGI is great. It’s very much like the worlds of Flash Gordon. Don’t sit down on or near anything, because it’s alive. Don’t drink anything, don’t turn around. In fact, don’t come to the island DUHR because you’re gonna be puppy chow.
Kong is 100 ft. tall and he has parents. He unfortunately lost them to a SkullWalker attack and is the last of his kind. He is also the island’s protector. And let me tell you, he. is. awesome. There’s no blow that he doesn’t recover from, and no fight that he doesn’t win, even when he’s bleeding out. I loved Kong. They really get him right here. He’s intelligent, passionate, and above all noble. He is the most humane creature in the film. It’s the humans, as always, that are disrespectful of what nature has created. And Kong defends the people there like the champ that he is.
Then there’s the devil that you know. The SkullCrawlers look and act just like you would expect giganimous demon lizards to. They are nasty. They don’t have legs, but have huge arms that they move super fast on. By the time you see them coming at you, you are dead. There’s even one scene where one of them pukes up the skull of a man he just ate. Conveniently in front of the human crew, of course.
There’s a Triceratops skull and other dinosaur skeletons found in the graveyard. Huge putrid spiders, giant cephalopods, colossal stick insects, massive water buffaloes(with reindeer antlers), and pterosaur-like birds that love to pick their prey up live.
But the people we want to survive do so. That’s the main thing. Samuel L. Jackson buys it trying to kill Kong, and Kong literally walks through an ocean of napalm to squash him. Kong then faces off against the mother of all SkullWalkers that literally looks like an animated skeleton from your worst nightmare. Gnarly.
Also, they followed each serious scene with some “light” music, Guardians of the Galaxy style. I thought that was really lame and undercut the tense moments. This ain’t Jerry Maguire.
All’s well that ends well(relatively speaking). The heroes get home. Kong is King. The pretty girl cries. The red shirts and jerks die horribly. Marlow is reunited with his family and the Cubs. Hiddleston literally doesn’t break a sweat at any point.
There’s a post credits scene that explains the inclusion of San. Turns out that the tech they used to find Skull Island has now revealed that there’s more. More islands, and more creatures. Off the coast of Japan, no less. The main creature they of course discover is….Godzilla. Yeah King Kong vs. Godzilla coming in 2019! This is definitely a film that you can’t look for any characterization beyond tropes. Go into it looking for CGI action(because Kong is revealed five minutes into the film). And lots of monster gore. It delivers big time in those departments!