This is a story about love, loss, life changes, ambition, carelessness, and judging others. But mainly, it is the story about a giant gorilla. A really giant gorilla. A really giant gorilla on an island that looks nothing like a skull, but may have some rock formations that kind of looked like a skull, maybe. Overall, this is a fine movie. It is nothing that you will remember in a month or two, but while you are watching it, you are entertained. And is that not what a movie should do? Every movie is not either the greatest ever, or crap, but that is a topic for another day.
Back in 2014, Warner Bros., with Legendary Entertainment, decided to relaunch a giant monster movie universe with the release of Godzilla. It was also a fine movie, with enough Godzilla goodness. Now, we get the next installment with Kong: Skull Island. But, there are some odd things about this follow-up that seem a little weird. (Mild spoilers ahead.)
First, the movie is set in the past, 1973 to be exact. Also, conveniently on the last day of the Vietnam war. I say conveniently, because this detail sets up a large story point that is intended to add some emotional weight to the story, but really just gets lost in all of the giant, rampaging monster action. Samuel L. Jackson plays a commander of some sort, in charge of a helicopter squadron stationed in Vietnam. When the war ends, he is not happy about it all. Rather than letting his men go back to the States, he gladly accepts this accompaniment mission to take some scientists to a remote island.
Why he is unhappy about going home is not explained. He just is. But I think the point of that story is to create sympathy with the soldiers as they die, because let’s face it, the reason there are so many soldiers being played by unknown actors is because they need a lot of cannon fodder. Trying to add an emotional side story to characters that are obvious cannon fodder did not work for me. It would take some really strong writing for me to get attached to characters that I know are going to have a pretty gruesome death.
Then there is the scientist contingent. There are 2 components to this group: Monarch and LanSat. John Goodman is the head of the Monarch group and has a couple assistants with him, also hiring Tom Hiddleston because he is former British special forces and some kind of tracker, or something. Joining them is Brie Larson as some kind of photo journalist who thinks there is some kind of secret being hidden. Then, there are some other scientists, but they do not really matter. You want to know how I know that they don not really matter? It is because we did not see them in any of the buildup to the mission to Skull Island.
Seriously, I could line up the cast, give some minimal background, and you would likely be able to tell me who lives and dies before you see it. The point in all of this is that the “why” all of these people are on this island does not really matter in the grand scheme of things. The only thing that matters is that these people are on an island with giant monsters. This movie does well with character interactions once they are put on the island. There, you have all of the story development that you need. You see just how unhinged Jackson’s character is becoming. You learn that Goodman’s character has not been on the level about what he thought was on the island. You see character traits of Larson and Hiddleston. That is why I wish these movies would ditch the setup and dive right in. You can introduce the characters to the audience as they are being introduced to each other.
But all of that is really more of a preference than a complaint. The movie is enjoyable. The action is well crafted. Kong looks good. This is a good movie to just sit back and enjoy. Do not worry about all of the minor details they throw at you, and just enjoy what is taking place on the screen.