‘Skull Island’ Review: A Kaiju Gift for All

Legendary Pictures has cracked the code on the next medium for expanding their Godzilla and King Kong-centric monster-verse: animation. Out of nowhere like a gift wrapped in silk and dropped from the sky by Mothra herself, Skull Island arrived on Netflix. With a Western anime aesthetic and a partnership with Powerhouse Animation, this cartoon pulls no punches and looks good doing it. Super self-aware, clever, and more witty than any animated action series needs to be, Skull Island delivers a nice Summer binge.

Another One

Skull Island picks up on the momentum of the cultural success of the Godzilla and Kong movies (five under Legendary Pictures, so far). If you’ve seen the movie Skull Island, that’s exactly where this takes place, thirty years in the future with an older Kong than in the movie; but younger than in Godzilla vs. Kong. The monster-verse is monster-verse-ing for real.

Skull Island
Hail to the Kong. (Powerhouse Animation, JP, Legendary Television 2023)

We come to Skull Island for two things: more monster verse lore and Kaiju fights! The fights do not disappoint! They aren’t as frequent early on, but once they get kicking, they go for it. The team on Skull Island indeed took their time with the scale and scope of the conflicts. They feel as visceral as the film versions, which can be difficult to capture in an episodic animated series – but they pull it off. Adding to the Kong mythos is wild after being around since 1933, but Skull Island manages to do it without making a heavy lift for viewers.

New but Old

Despite being a new animated series with super clean visuals and fluid action animation – Skull Island is bringing back some of that old-school grit. About to date myself here, but I’ve got to ask. Do y’all remember Jonny Quest? The Hanna-Barbera banger from the 60s with the intro composed by Jazz legend Count Basie? Yeah, Skull Island is moving in that vein. Jonny Quest opened every episode with a body being bagged. Skull Island is giving three bodies an episode. Not just extras and nameless characters, but straight-up main characters with monologues getting monster mashed.

On the flip side of that more intense and graphic violence is a quippy repartee so constant that it almost feels out of place. Mind you, it’s all well written but goodness gracious! After the first episode, Sull Island shifts into rapid-fire wisecracks. If there’s a Guinness World Record for quips in a series, this has got to rank high.

Skull Island
Cap looks danger dead in the face. (Powerhouse Animation, JP, Legendary Television 2023)

Variation Over Diversity, Huh

Without a tremendous amount of fanfare, Skull Island boasts a lot of different skin tones for the characters. Not just the core characters, but even the nameless monster fodder red shirts. The cast is diverse and made up of heavy hitters from TV, movies, and voice work. The performances are all very decent. More decent than any series about a Kaiju island should be. Benjamin Bratt, Mae Whitman, Nicholas Cantu, Betty Gilpin, Darren Barnet, and Phil Lamarr?!? This is an A-Team of talent.

Skull Island
Irene (Betty Gilpin) and Sam (Phil Lamarr) anime gasping. (Powerhouse Animation, JP, Legendary Television 2023)

We Gotta Go Back to the Island

With a group this strong and lore this deep, it’s hard to imagine that this flew under the radar. Let me tell you now if you have any love in your heart for Kaiju-type things, you’re going to love Skull Island. Great action elements and great storytelling aren’t knocked off track by the quickly quipped pace of the series. If Legendary and Powerhouse Animation wanted to, they could keep this going for a long time and open the floodgates for some great monster-verse series in the future. Binge this on Netflix if you’re here for a good time, streaming now.

Cover image via Netflix

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  • Poet, MC, Nerd, All-Around Problem. Lover of words, verse, and geek media from The Bronx, NYC.

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