Kong: Suck Island

Why would you give a man a grenade launcher if you didn’t want him to use it?  I started getting a nagging feeling part way through Kong: Skull Island.  Red Headband Kid had a grenade launcher on his M16.  Some of the other soldiers did too.  Isambard, who can recognize any firearm just by seeing a quarter inch of it, noticed that one character had a M79 grenade launcher on his back the whole movie.  He never used it.  Then he died pointlessly.

Just like unused grenade launcher, Kong: Skull Island is chock full of wasted potential.  A movie that could have been, while not likely great, a lot of fun.  Made by the same people who did the recent American Godzilla movie, it follows a similar principle of “we want to see nostalgic awesome monster smash bad monsters.”

That describes the best parts of the movie too.  Giant CGI monkey smashes various bad CGI monsters.  That was awesome.  Sadly there was more to the movie.

A pile of human characters land on Skull Island… and cardboard cutouts might have been more interesting than most of them.  You’d think Tom Hiddleston would be the main character and actually have some character but other than some hints of a mysterious past (why did he leave the SAS and become a tracker?) that’s it.  We never learn anymore about him.  Brie Larson’s anti-war photog takes pictures and looks amazed at things.  She doesn’t even go on any anti-military rants.  She does, however, help to break suspension of disbelief for anyone who knows even a little history.  Embedded with MACV-SOG, did I hear that right?

Almost everybody dies, but you won’t care.  The movie wants you to care, but really you won’t.  Death comes suddenly and in horrible ways.  What little characterization they get is clearly just so you feel bad when they die screaming.  It’s manipulative.  The guy who talks about his kid, well, he was an obvious goner; those kind always are.  Same with the guy who tried to stop the mission and didn’t want to come.  The soldiers are so disposable that after one scene of carnage I was confused about who had died because, when I thought about it, I couldn’t remember any of the character that were now gone.  You never learn most of their names.  Or if you do you aren’t given a reason to remember them.

John Goodman’s character shows some promise, is given some back story, acts a touch crazy… and they don’t do anything else with him.  Samuel L Jackson turns into a weird pseudo Captain Ahab, hellbent on killing him some MFing ape.  Given Goodman’s back story, he probably would have been a better choice for that.  If they’d combined the characters it might have worked a lot better because Jackson on his own still isn’t interesting.  He’s just crazy.

A movie, even one with giant monsters, need a bit of realism and consistency.  For instance, if your flamethrower doesn’t stop a monster then setting fire to a gas vent shouldn’t either.  If the skullcrawlers like to eat people why would one decide not too just because the soldier was trying to blow it up by sacrificing himself?  Which was just stupid anyway since he could have instead shot all those grenades out of the GRENADE LAUNCHER ON HIS BACK.  (Also he flipped the handles/spoons/whatever-they’re-called off the grenades when he pulled the pins so his hands probably would have blown off before it could eat him anyway.)

On multiple occasions humans are rather near to monster fights, monster fights in which things are being thrown and smashed into the ground and/or water.  When a giant ape is wrestling a giant squid and a person is hiding behind a rock on the shore, there should have been waves.  That much thrashing, the person probably gets wet.  With our heroes on a boat you might think you’d see them being washed around a bit by all the waves caused by thrashing lizards, but no.  Did the filmmaker run out of effects budget or have they never seen how large a wave a small boat makes when it goes by?

I got out of the movie thinking that it was “just okay,” but the more I thought about it the worse it gets.  Kong: Skull Island is a bad movie with nonexistent characters and a ton of emotional manipulation in the form of unnecessary and unpleasant deaths.  It’s got great monster action, but other than that the only thing I took away from the movie was a desire to own a Richard Nixon bobblehead.