Sunday, March 26, 2017

KONG: SKULL ISLAND! Seeing the New Monster Romp from Legendary Pictures!

Spoilers herein.

I finally had a chance to see Kong: Skull Island, which opened yesterday in Japan. It was exactly what I expected it to be, which overall isn't a terribly good thing.

It improves on several weaknesses from Godzilla (2014), but that movie was so bad it's hard to imagine things getting any worse. For one thing, there was an attempt at creating some interesting characters. Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly are the standouts here. (Everyone else is more or less forgettable.) Reilly comes close to stealing the show with (what seem to be) some amusing ad libbed lines (recalling some of his best work in Boogie Nights and Magnolia). Jackson and Goodman elevate some otherwise one-dimensional characters with their presence and acting abilities. The rest of the cast does not.

As for the monsters, Kong is just a big ape -- a roaring, chest-pounding fighting machine. That's all. He is completely devoid of the personality and pathos that endeared him to Depression-era audiences. The other beasties in the film don't fare any better. There are oversize buffalo, spiders, octopuses, and lizards with skull faces, and none of them seem particularly inspired.

Much is made of the giant skull-faced lizard, who remains unseen until the end of the movie. But its appearance is more of an anticlimax than anything else. We've already seen a whole army of these creatures in action. This one just happens to be a bit bigger than the others. So what's the big deal? I was bored to distraction during the battle between Kong and the big skull-faced lizard, and for the life of me I can't even remember how Kong defeated it. I'm sure it involved chest-pounding, though.

Yes, I stayed for the post-credits sequence, and I have to admit I found it a bit confusing. For example, it appears that the next Godzilla film will adhere to the Skull Island timeline, meaning it will take place in the '70s. So how exactly will it connect with, you know, the last Godzilla film, which did not? Also, the characters in this sequence refer to the Toho kaiju as other "kings" (besides Kong), but how exactly do they make that determination? Why doesn't ol' Skull Face count as a "king"? Not marketable enough? Beaten too easily? Doesn't have Rodan's agent? Pretty arbitrary if you ask me.

In closing, Kong: Skull Island is an assembly-line product that is sure to please fans who want to see some computer-rendered monster action. It is a better movie than Godzilla (2014), so I'll give it credit for that. But I guess I can't get excited anymore about watching disposable characters perish in predictable ways while the protagonists easily avoid any and all danger, rarely even getting their hair mussed. Been there, done that -- way too many times.

Save something for the grownups, please.

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