I feel like there's something plaguing Hollywood these days, a scourge that was started by one of my favourite movies... I call it the "More Than Syndrome".
Ever since The Dark Knight broke the comic book genre mold and received universal praise for being "more than just a comic book movie", many movies since have died upon their lofty ambitions of being "More Than" just another genre movie.
Kong: Skull Island is a great example of movie that takes what could have been a highly entertaining genre film and forces it to die a slow, bloated death trying to become "More Than" just another Monster Movie. The sad part is, with most of the pieces they had, they really could have made an incredibly entertaining Monster Movie if that's all they set out to do.
Now, first off, we're going to have to agree on a few things when it comes to Monster Movies if you're going to be on board with my review:
1) The movie should be about the monster(s)
2) The characters don't need more motivation beyond survival
3) The fewer scenes without monsters, the better
If you agree on that list, we're gonna be on the same page here. The people who made Kong: Skull Island do not agree with that list.
I understand the challenge; the second act of a Monster Movie is always tough. The first act is a gimme because the audience is dying to see the monster go off, so the anticipation is built in, and the last act is a gimme because you just need a cool monster fight to finish out the movie. Filling the space between those two moments is the tough part.
I'm from the "Jurassic Park" school of thought here, that all you need is the drama of the characters trying to survive, nothing more. You fill out what are sure to be fairly shallow characters by getting good actors to play them so the emotions feel real, place a few Monster-related obstacles between them and their escape, occasionally kill off a character to up the stakes, and boom; you have everything you need for a good monster movie.
Kong suffers brutally from trying to achieve "More Than" this by creating purely character-based drama in the middle of the narrative for no reason. So it has the characters chasing a huge story thread that the audience knows from the start will lead no where, all while making you wait for more of what everyone paid to see: monkey fights.
I'm not sure what lead them to do this; whether it was to pad the running time, to attract better actors with more lines, or maybe even to try to win awards... I'll never know, but the movie basically dies in the second act because of it.
Had they endeavoured to just make an entertaining, action-packed monster movie I really think they could have pulled it off, but instead Kong: Skull Island sinks under the weight of trying to be "More Than" that.
Ryan Simmons, a professional voiceover actor and passionate pop culture afficianado, can be heard 6 - 10 a.m. weekdays on 106.7 The Drive.
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