KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017)
Before Godzilla, before Cloverfield, before any giant monsters roamed the Earth, there was King Kong. While nothing will probably top the thrills of the 1933 original, this film is a very good remake/ reboot which is respectful and complimentary to the legacy of Kong. It’s action packed and quite entertaining, which is more than I can say for some of the earlier versions. I’m thinking mainly of Peter Jackson’s bloated 2005 CGI-wankfest that had the unique problem of having not enough and too much action at the same time. This movie does it right. The story moves along at a swift clip and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The plot is the same old same old: A ragtag bunch of explorers (and one woman) find their way to a mysterious, uncharted island which is populated by the namesake giant ape, along with a bunch of other primordial beasties and of course the native tribe that worships Kong as their god and savior. The twist this time is that the film takes place in 1973 (I suspect by doing this they are giving Kong an extra 40+ years to continue growing in order to match the size of um, ….another giant monster J). Lots of Vietnam era music is heard on the soundtrack, and is used quite well.
Reviewers have complained about the lack of depth in the characters. To be fair they are not really characters, but familiar archetypes: Tom Hiddleston is the mercenary explorer, and Brie Larson is the gutsy war photographer. John Goodman is the tweedy academic who wants to study the beast, while Samuel J is the military guy who just wants to blow him to smithereens. John C. Reilly almost steals the show as a WWII pilot who’s clearly been on the island too long. I will say that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts uses his excellent human cast better than Gareth Edwards did in his 2014 Godzilla.
And the giant monsters! First and foremost is Kong himself. Granted, Peter Jackson’s Kong was more realistic, but this Kong has more personality due to the improved motion capture, and his appearance is similar to the original model in 1933 (we won’t even mention the 1976 Kong, let alone the rather awful looking Toho apes…sorry guys, furry creatures are not your strong suit*). There is also a giant spider, and a giant wildebeest, and some “giant f***in’ ants” although we don’t see them. Kong’s main foe in the film are the “Skull Crawlers” and to be honest I was not impressed with these creatures: They seemed to be designed in the JJ Abrams school of excessive “claws and jaws” which show up in many of his films: Cloverfield, Super 8, Star Trek, etc. etc.
It’s not perfect, nor particularly deep or meaningful, but it’s a good piece of popcorn entertainment that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Definitely recommended for anyone who is a fan of kaiju genre films. Especially if you stay until the end of the credits!
*the exception being 1965’s War of the Gargantuas.