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Skull Island TV series Review: Kong Shines, Humanity Falters

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This review of Skull Island TV series contains no spoilers.

Skull Island is undoubtedly one of the most treacherous fictional locations to be stranded in. The towering carnivorous creatures and perilous landscapes pose a significant threat to any human’s chances of survival. Adding to the danger, a colossal gorilla guards the island, defending it against all who dare to challenge its dominion.

Despite the allure of this captivating realm, Skull Island fails to deliver when it comes to the human characters who encounter it. Netflix’s animated series, Skull Island, the first television venture for Legendary’s expansive MonsterVerse franchise featuring Kong and Godzilla, falls short in terms of compelling human drama and impactful humor, opting for mediocre storytelling and Nickelodeon-style jokes that lack punch.

Set in the 1990s, the series follows the adventures of wisecracking 17-year-old Charlie (Nicolas Cantu), his father Cap (Benjamin Bratt), and Charlie’s moody best friend Mike (Darren Barnet) as they embark on a high seas exploration. During their journey, they encounter Annie (Mae Whitman), a girl seeking refuge from a group of soldiers, who unexpectedly boards their boat. When a massive squid-like creature attacks their vessels, leaving them shipwrecked and stranded on Skull Island, Annie, Charlie, and Mike find themselves on one side of the island, while Cap is marooned on the other with Irene (Betty Gilpin) and her loyal companion Sam (Phil LaMarr), who is on a mission to find Annie. The two parties must navigate the dangers of the island, reunite, and find a way back home, all while contending with a relentless sea monster. Their only hope lies in persuading Kong, the mighty creature capable of facing the sea beast, to aid their survival.

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Visually, Skull Island impresses with its stunning animation. The design of Kong and the island itself, reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, is spectacular. The meticulously crafted forest environments and the creative use of scale heighten the tension when humans confront the island’s formidable creatures. The animated format allows for engaging and somewhat intense action sequences, although the limited gore, fitting for a TV-14 series, may leave some craving more terror.

Despite these visual accomplishments, the series struggles to maintain viewer interest across its eight 22-minute episodes. Writer Brian Duffield, known for his excellent work on the captivating creature feature Love & Monsters (2020), fails to capture the same magic here. Skull Island focuses excessively on the characters’ quest to find each other, presenting them as shallow archetypes with minimal depth or intrigue. The series follows a predictable formula common in Skull Island-based stories, resulting in a slow-paced narrative that offers little excitement in its action sequences. Consequently, viewers may find themselves tempted to abandon the show and revisit Kong: Skull Island instead.

Duffield attempts to inject humor into the scenes, particularly through the Sokka-esque character of Charlie, but the jokes consistently fall flat. The comedic tone feels inconsistent, disrupting the intensity of the overall story, resembling a subpar superhero series where characters deliver quips that fail to land.

Among the characters, the teens manage to hold some interest, thanks in part to the efforts of the voice cast to breathe life into their bland and generic writing. Mae Whitman, a seasoned voice actress, delivers a spirited performance as the scrappy and resilient island girl, Annie. Whitman infuses her lines with a feral rasp, bringing depth to Annie’s character as she faces adversity and protects her loyal companion, Dog, a monster lion reminiscent of a Digimon creature.

Unfortunately, the series disappoints when it comes to the titular monster’s involvement. Kong takes a backseat for the majority of the show, only appearing prominently in

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