John Goodman leads a team of scientists onto a previously unexplored island in order to map it out before the Russians have a chance to. However as you may have anticipated this mission does not go to plan and things go incredibly awry.
To my mind this is the Jurassic World movie that could have been. Where I enjoyed Jurassic World, it wasn’t an especially “good” movie, and I think largely wasted its big budget potential. Something Skull Island does not do. It’s outrageously good fun.
Jurassic World really suffered from a lack in character depth, and while I’m not claiming Skull Island is Moonlight. It definitely has more flesh to its characters than many other movies in the blockbuster category. I had worried that Oscar Winning Brie Larson would be given nothing at all to do, but her character does have an interesting anti-war photography angle. For sure this is largely side-lined for the majority, but I found it reared its head often enough to satisfy me. Interestingly enough it’s actually Tom Hiddleston who suffers the most from an underwritten character. While of course he is charming and charismatic he does stick out somewhat in the film as an underwritten character. Elsewhere Samuel L Jackson entirely steals the movie. To be honest it’s a little ridiculous that the man can be in so many movie and still steal entire films like this.
The screening I was in for the first time I watched this movie, was full of people who didn’t really know how to handle it. The impression I got was that they had all come to see it expecting it to be bad, to the level that they appeared to want it to be bad. Now Skull Island is a monster movie, it’s not a serious movie. Occasionally ridiculous things happen, because it’s a monster movie. However each time this happened, rather off-puttingly the room would erupt in a sly kind of laughter. People started mocking the movie for being ridiculous, without realising of course that the film knows full well it’s ridiculous and has already made jokes to this tune. It is a genuinely funny film, not because it’s bad, but because it’s shot with a good sense of visual comedy and has no intention of being a Batman v Superman esque snoozefest. Skull Island is a rollicking great ride and you don’t need to leave your brain at the door, because it isn’t stupid. It is ridiculous, but it isn’t stupid – apparently a distinction that the slacker’s club crowd I watched with failed to understand.
Now let’s get to the monsters. Kong is huge. He was big in the Peter Jackson 2005 version (an underrated movie), but now he is absolutely huge. The film does an impeccable job of showing you just how big he is at all times and it does inspire a genuine sense of awe. The other monster, the lizard like beasties that are the real antagonists are superbly well imagined and genuinely pretty scary in design. Elsewhere other beast like creatures make cameos, including my personal favourite: “tree-spider bamboo leg thing”. This isn’t really a King Kong movie, Kong does have a large role – being the “king” of the island. But this is really a film about the island itself.
If I may, I’m going to compliment this film with another dig at DC and their recent movies. Because this film has a high volume of popular music in its soundtrack, but it means something. The songs used set the film clearly in the immediately post-Vietnam confusion period, and the songs actually fit what is happening on screen. Whereas in Suicide Squad, songs have no actual connection to events and have nothing in common and so add nothing to the movie other than occasional distraction.
Overall, I really do recommend Skull Island very highly. The most fun I’ve had at the cinema in a long time.