With Skull Island, it actually feels like the filmmakers listened to the complaints levelled at 2014’s Godzilla film. Where Gareth Edwards’ effort was criticised for its distinct lack of giant monster action, Skull Island gives you what you want, right out of the gate. In fact, it never lets up. Time and again, the action dials it up to 11, such that you start to worry the climax will never be able to hit such heights. These fears turn out to be unfounded, however…
This film is the very definition of big, dumb fun. Set in 1973, it sees a bunch of scientists and soldiers out to explore a hitherto uncharted island. For those who don’t know, this is technically a prequel to the aforementioned Godzilla film, and there are references to that one dotted through the picture, most notably the presence of the sinister agency known as Monarch. (Stick around for the post-credit scene if you’re the type to enjoy universe-building in your blockbusters.)
Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly and John Goodman head up what is an impressive cast. The supporting players are somewhat interchangeable, mostly because they’re all designed to be monster fodder, but as an ensemble piece, it mostly works. It’s exciting to see Larson in an action role (and one where she doesn’t get damselled, instead spending her time doing useful things) particularly because of her upcoming performance in Captain Marvel, a film that can’t come soon enough.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts really knows how to stage an action scene. Thanks to this interview, I know that he’s a big-time gamer and anime fan, and it shows. The climactic battle in particular feels right out of Evangelion, and is truly incredible to watch. The visual effects are more than up to the task, too. There might be the occasional dodgy shot (some weird sky replacement scenes are a bit off) but most of the work here is top notch. Most importantly, all of the action is easy to follow. It’s epic and certainly feels chaotic, but you can always see what’s going on, something that didn’t happen in the Transformers movies, or even Pacific Rim. As far as I’m concerned, these effects take giant monster movies to the next level – easily as impressive as the T-Rex fight was in Peter Jackson’s 2005 effort. Cinematographer Larry Fong knows his stuff, having worked on 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch, and the fact that he’s working on the new Predator movie excites me no end…
The film suffers from an overabundance of characters, meaning that it’s hard to keep track of who’s still alive. More than once I found myself surprised as so-and-so walked into frame, because I hadn’t seen them for the past 20 minutes. The soundtrack choices were disappointing also, featuring the most obvious music of the era you could think of. The score, however, was great.
If you’re the type to shake your head in dismay when people try to tell you that the Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers sequels are just mindless fun, then give Kong: Skull Island a try. I’d even go so far as to say this is a better Jurassic Park sequel than the mystifyingly popular Jurassic World.Rating: