It's the end of the Vietnam War and a group of scientists from a secret government agency known as Monarch - which has been created to track 'ancient Earth species' - is enroute to Skull Island, a mythical place which has been shut off from modern civilisation and holds dangerous creatures...
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fter the so-so Godzilla, a lot of hope and expectation riding on the back of Kong: Skull Island was lifted by virtue of the fact that gigantic monsters on the screen worked with audiences - but only just. One of the big problems with Godzilla was that it took itself far too seriously in some cases and then, in others, it seemed to lean heavily into its ridiculousness. It's the same here with Kong: Skull Island, which is by and large entertaining and fun, acknowledges its own ridiculousness, but doesn't really wow an audience beyond the initial reaction.
ohn Goodman is a Denholm Elliot-esque scientist who manages to convince the US government - personified by the excellent-if-underutilised Richard Jenkins - to fund an expedition to Skull Island, a place where science and myth meet. As it's the '70s, the Cold War is the reason why they're sent and, coincidentlaly, why they're receiving a military escort onto the island. A horrendously miscast Tom Hiddleston is hired as the tracker, Brie Larson is the photographer, Samuel L. Jackson is the hard-ass military commander and John C. Reilly is a World War II veteran who was stranded on the island and provides the comic relief.
or the most part, Kong: Skull Island is fully aware of how ridiculous it is and very much accepts it as part of the scenery. The fact that it has a humourous streak running through it definitely helps to push through some of the more off-the-wall moments and it helps to give the film a buoyancy that Godzilla lacked. As well as this, the story is structured enough - they've got to get off the island by a certain time or they're left behind - so that it never feels like it's losing you, but the fact is that the characters in the story are so dull, uninteresting and poorly cast that it's difficult to care about their fate.
s mentioned, Hiddleston sticks out like a sore thumb and is impossible to take seriously as a hardened SAS tracker - even though they slap a beard on him. Brie Larson, meanwhile, plays the cocksure photographer well, but isn't given a chance to develop whilst Samuel L. Jackson's military commander is essentially Captain Ahab. Even John C. Reilly is taking off Dennis Hopper's stoned photographer from Apocalypse Now. You've seen all these characters before, sure, but here they're just outlines rather than fully formed and fleshed out. This, in turn, makes us not care all that much about them when they're eventually picked off by the island's inhabitants.
martly, however, Kong is front and centre in the film and when the film focuses there, it really does work. The action is well choreographed and fully acknowledges that it's a latter-day B-movie with a big budget. While it doesn't have Edwards' sharp sense of scale or depth of field, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts makes a good enough attempt at making the fights between Kong and the hastily named Skullcrawlers splashy and big enough to distract you from the film's failings.
y and large, Kong: Skull Island is an entertaining blockbuster, but with some caveats in the form of poor casting and flat, unoriginal storytelling. It deserves to be seen on a big screen, as it'll quite likely lose a lot of its charms on a smaller screen.