Godzilla, this is most certainly not!
In 2014, Godzilla tried to be something deeper than most of the monster-based movies that came before it, only to waste valuable time failing at character development and trying to be cute by refusing to show Godzilla in his entirety for a good portion of the film in the name of building suspense and *blows raspberry*.
Kong: Skull Island goes almost the opposite direction, but the irony is that this movie has pretty much the same amount of character development while consistently maintaining at least twice the fun and excitement as the underwhelming Godzilla.
A talented cast (namely Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, and Samuel L. Jackson) does get criminally underutilized with the soaring exception of a phenomenal John C. Reilly, although who really cares when we can see a massive spider terrorizing Vietnam War soldiers, or Kong violently wrestling a monstrous lizard from the depths of hell into deadly submission?
This is a movie that wants us to ogle at its visual effects and in a world where we increasingly take CGI and the like for granted, it’s worth noting Kong: Skull Island absolutely nails its visuals. I don’t think there was a single shot that took me out of the movie, which is not a universal truth in films even now. Plus, unlike Godzilla, this takes place in a colorful tropical location as opposed to a drab and rainy urban environment.
If you’re gonna make a movie, this is one of the right ways to do it. Not every good movie needs to be a candidate for prestigious awards. It’s definitely better to know what your strengths are rather than trying to be something you’re not.
Does that mean it’s impossible to make a monster movie that has a strong story and solid character development? Of course not. But maybe that’s not what’s important for these types of films anyway.
In a lot of ways, I feel like Kong: Skull Island managed to “Marvel” itself – in a good way. You know, that magical balance of action, comedy, and pacing that doesn’t feel rushed, but – perhaps more importantly – doesn’t drag and drag. In those aspects, this movie absolutely nails it. It’s almost two hours long, but boy does it fly by.
It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes character development doesn’t matter. I mean, if we’re really being honest with ourselves here, do the humans actually matter in a budding franchise featuring gargantuan beasts like Godzilla and King Kong? Maybe, but maybe not. I think what’s more important here is that while Kong: Skull Island may have the same plot/character depth and technical accomplishments as an entry in the dreaded Transformers franchise, the difference between the two is that Kong: Skull Island is actually really fun to watch.
Plus, let’s not make the mistake of underselling this movie. It’s not just fun – there are some real moments of genuine tension and suspense here that comes from a combination of everything discussed above as well as a terrifying plethora of monsters… like the aforementioned giant spider. When I say giant, I’m saying this motherfucker was like multiple stories tall. So disturbing.
The atmosphere in this movie is very well done and overall it’s hard to argue against the idea that this is a legitimately entertaining movie. Despite its misuse of a very talented cast and a lame script, I will continue to put forth my argument that a film must prioritize its strengths based on its content. I don’t necessarily think it would have been a good thing if Kong: Skull Island had the same character depth as, say, Manchester by the Sea.
In the end, Kong has his fun and so do we. What else matters?