The Monster-Verse continues to expand its lore and its storytelling. After successful films Godzilla in 2014, Kong: Skull Island in 2017, and Godzilla vs. Kong in 2021, many questioned why Legendary would let their cash cow fall apart. Sure enough, they found a way forward, setting up a live-action series with AppleTV+ and an animated series with Netflix. The first one out the gate, Skull Island, seeks to bring the adventure of the franchise to Netflix. Not only does the show deliver that fun action we want out of a giant monster movie, but it also builds interesting characters for us to follow.
After a shipwreck, a group of survivors struggle to survive on Skull Island. Charlie (Nicolas Cantu), Mike (Darren Barnet), and Annie (Mae Whitman) traverse the jungle looking for Charlie’s Father. An explorer by trade, Cap (Benjamin Bratt) survives with a group of mercenaries (John DiMaggio & Phil LaMarr) led by Irene (Betty Gilpin). While they struggle on the island, the giant King Kong looms in the mist. Something even more dangerous waits in the waters.
The animated series takes on the playful tone of Avatar: The Last Airbender and early 2000s Scooby-Doo. The excellent animation embraces a stylized approach. The characters are drawn in a fashion that combines the styles of both shows. Even though Skull Island leans more towards the cartoonish side with action heroes, it’s still fun to see the setpieces come to life. At the same time, Skull Island occasionally leans into the gore. The use of blood makes this inherently more violent than many shows of its ilk. Additionally, this provides real stakes for our heroes to overcome (and traumatic events to scar them as well).
Some will likely want more Kong, but one of the excellent aspects of Skull Island is the world-building. The real marvel comes from the show’s creature animation. The creativity the animators put on display combines natural botany and monster design. The animals are rarely stoic, with Dog showcasing genuine facial expressions. The other native species of the island take center stage in spurts, often dominating an episode at a time. A beautiful bird flies over the island, an oversized dog makes for a fun companion.
Of course, Kong delivers the coolest moments of the series. His massive size allows animators to incorporate giant CGI setpieces. This also enables the animators to incorporate camera movements to showcase the spectacle. Kong’s limited use early in the show makes way for excellent setpieces later in the series.
The comedy may rub some as uneven, yet it undeniably fits into a lineage of animation. At the same time, its joke-a-minute format will grate on some viewers. The non-sequiturs and non-topical jokes sometimes distract, but other times, they hit the funny bone just right. Overall, we enjoyed the experience, but will not hold it against anyone who does not all for its charm.
With monsters, wit, and decent character arcs, Skull Island makes for a satisfying binge on Netflix. With only eight initial episodes, it would be fun to return to this world in the near future. The mystery improves as we go, and the final two episodes astound. In the meantime, Skull Island shows that Netflix can be home to exciting genre animation, all while serving a larger purpose. Frankly, Skull Island runs circles around many Netflix series and is a dark horse to be one of its more popular animated series in some time.