The Lost City of Z

Imagine a time where the idea of a lost city of gold was still a possibility. Places like Atlantis, El Dorado, Libertalia, Shambala, Iram of the Pillars… ok, at this point I’m listing the lost cities featured in the Uncharted video game. Still, the idea is quite enticing. The pull for most explorers are the ideas of vast wealth, unlimited power, immortality, etc. Spanish explorers scoured the Florida peninsula(before it was the U.S. of course) in hope of finding the fabled Fountain of Youth. Stories and myths from explorers and conquistadors has inspired countless stories that still sparks the imagination of people today.

At the dawn of the 20th century, a British explorer, Percy Fawcett discovers evidence of a previously unknown civilization and returns again and again in hopes of actually finding this lost city. This is the premise of The Lost City of Z.
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This movie is not your typical adventure story. This is nothing like Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island, etc. I wouldn’t even classify it as an adventure. Not that it is boring, since it’s anything but. It’s the drama that unfolds giving us insights to the mind and the heart of Percy Fawcett.

We find early on that his father has tainted his family name through drunkiness and gambling. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) has been presented with an opportunity to redeem the family name by undertaking an expedition to explore unknown territories of the Amazons. Leaving his wife (Sienna Miller) and children (Tom Holland plays his oldest) behind, Fawcett joins his army friend Henry Costin (an unrecognizable Robert Pattinson), a native guide, and additional men from a rubber plantation and journeys up an unexplored river in the jungle. After what seems to be a peaceful journey, the group is encounters hostile natives but before being forced to return Fawcett stumbles upon shards of pottery indicating the possibility of a highly developed ancient civilization, a place he refers to as Z.

Fawcett returns to home to present his findings only to come against ridicule from the scientific community who regarded the the indigenous people as savages. With the support of his wife and his companions, he is able to make more returns to the Amazon in hopes to be able to dig deeper into the Jungle and prove his naysayers wrong. The real Fawcett actually went on 7 expeditions whereas the movie only shows 3.

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The focal point of this movie is the drama that unfolds between each exploration. The separation of family and personal ambition. Percy is driven almost to the point of madness to find Z, but he leaves behind his growing family. By being gone for extended periods of time(years). He even leaves again because of a short stint of serving in the first World War. All this culminates the tension he feels between being with his family and discovering Z.

The movie is well shot and well acted. Not a single talent is wasted and that is refreshing. I’m expecting big things from Tom Holland. He continues to impress me with his emotional range. With a compelling script and an unhurried pace, Writer/director James Grey takes us on journey of curiosity and obsession.

I can’t imagine most people enjoying this at the theater. There was one moment where my mind drifted off. However by the end, I wanted to see more. I do have to iterate that this isn’t Indiana Jones or Romancing the Stones. Despites a couple intense moments, there’s no major action set pieces. Except for the few intense momentd there’s no adventurous thrills. Nobody is swinging from vines. No hidden traps triggering shooting poison darts. Just the dramatic indepth look at Percy Fawcett.

Fate of the Furious

Has summer blockbuster season begun or is this a tease of what’s to come?

I’ll admit that the Fast and Furious franchise is not really the kind movies I’m super excited about. I’m not a car guy for one thing, nor do I get a kick out of (illegal) street races. However, as the series went on, it evolved into a more ridiculous “what kind of crazy stunts can we do with cars” sort of film surrounding Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker and their ragtag crew. Add in Dwayne the Rock Johnson and Jason Statham then you have an action franchise that is basically pure adrenaline or nitrous I should say. Just leave your brain at the door and enjoy the ride. What makes this franchise work is that the films know how ridiculous they are and uses that as their platform.

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8 movies later, after Vin and crew promised this story will continue on after the passing of Paul Walker. If anything, they do it for him.

The primary theme of the FF franchise is built around the idea of family. With constant reminder from Dominic Toretto (Vin) that you don’t turn against family. Fate of the Furious has him breaking the very rule that pretty much kept him alive. Of course, it’s far deeper than that and for spoilers sake, you’ll have to watch the movie to know why.

Let’s briefly talk about the real reason why people come to these movies, the crazy stunts and the wise cracks between the leads. Last movie had them flying out of an airplane and jumping between skyscrapers. Let me just put, briefly, 3 of the insane ideas that they have put into this movie. A monstrous wrecking ball, a big ass submarine controlled by a ghost plane, and zombie cars. Yes, zombie cars. Trust me. It’s pretty insane and a pretty cool action set. Definitely kept me engaged through the whole movie.

 

Amidst all the insanity that the FF series bring to the big screen, it’s the returning cast plus a few new additions, as well as the antagonist(s) that keeps the franchise going. Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez continue their drama as Dominic Toretto and Letty carrying the emotional weight of the movie as newlyweds. Dom has gone rogue leaving Letty and his family behind, drama ensues.

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It seems you can’t have these movies now without Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and his wisecracks. Roman, I feel, is the one character who brings a little sense of reality. The idea of being chased down by a submarine is pretty ridiculous, and Roman lets us know over and over with each ludicrous stunt they find themselves performing.

Speaking of ludicrous, Ludacris returns as wise crackin’ techie. Usually paired up with Roman cracking jokes with each other and admiring the ladies. It’s interesting to see his character evolve from 2 Fast 2 Furious as an illegal street race aficionado and tech geek, especially when it pertains to cars, to full on tech genius/hacker with tech skills good enough to rival Anonymous. However, he has Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel) who takes up most of the hacking job.

The villain of this movie is Cipher (Charlize Theron) who you can probably guess by the typical name is the world best hacker with a bone to pick. She recruits Dominic and turns him against his family. Her character here runs in the same vein of her evil witch queen, Ravenna in both The Huntsman: Winter’s War and Snow White and the Huntsman. Instead of magic, she hacks computers.

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The real scene stealer in F8 belongs to both Dwayne The Rock Johnson and Jason Statham. Hobbs, the Rock, is the ultimate muscle of the group. He takes on a superhuman persona wiping out anyone who stands in his way by a simple punch. And when I say punch, I don’t mean like a boxer’s jab. I mean, a punch to the chest will send you flying through the walls. With him paired with Statham, it makes for great eye candy. They talk smack to each other while performing their stunts. Without getting into spoilery details, Deckard (Statham) is brought back this time to help the team take out Cipher and Dom. I will say that it’s doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to have the main bad guy of the previous movie who caused quite a bit of mayhem and even kills Han to being accepted, sort of, as part of the team. But like I said earlier, just leave your brain at the door. I will say, Statham has what is probably my favorite scene out of the whole movie.

Seriously though, if you’re looking for a good time? Go see Fate of the Furious. It’s exactly the kind of action comedy to see on the big screen. Plenty of laughs and thrills to be had. That’s my Noble Opinion.

Life

In space where no one can hear you scream. Wait. No… Wrong movie.

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Life is a team of scientists aboard the ISS who studies samples from Mars and discover the first signs of life beyond Earth. Only to find this life-form is far dangerous to bring home to Earth. The crew must find a way to kill it before it kills them and find its way to Earth.

The crew consists of the generic combination which I assume is needed when you have a space mission. You need a doctor, a disease control specialist, an engineer, a biologist of some sort, some form of security, and the pilot/captain. One of the positive thing I’ve noticed was the movie doesn’t follow one central lead. The characters that shine more are the ones that survives longer. To avoid any major spoilers, each actors given their time frames do extremely well, particularly Jake Gyllenhaal. His capabilities to bring real honest human emotions given the circumstances is a testament of his acting credibility. And of course, Reynolds is given his wisecrack schtick.

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The alien is a force to be reckoned with. Once developed, there’s a sense of dread and fear that harkens back to Ridley Scott’s Alien. The influence of the Alien franchise is definitely evident but despite what several professional critics have expressed, the movies do have their differences. The creature of Life is definitely creepy, and like Alien, you can’t help but wonder where it’s going to be next. There’s a few nail-biting scenes that makes it worth the watch if you’re into these kind of movies.

The film’s pace moves along quickly and it doesn’t lose its narrative structure. Despite the intensity of the suspense, it does fall into a little bit of predictability.

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The special effects and the set designs are done really well. We are given some of the gnarliest death scenes I’ve seen on film in a while. Kudos, to the sfx team on that one.

If you’re into these kind of movies, Life could be worth the watch. Might be more fun for a watch at home with the lights off. That’s my honest Noble opinion. But hey, Alien: Covenant comes out soon so at least Life will whet your appetite until then.

Power Rangers

My first memory of going to see a movie on the big screen was in summer of 1995 at 7 years old watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. As a kid, the movie was amazing. I spent days after dressing up as the white ranger. Running around with kicking imaginary putty patrollers and rescuing Kim the pink ranger. Yes, I had a childhood crush on Kim.

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I kept up fairly well with each new team until about maybe the 4th or 5th one. I got a little older and thought that they were getting a cheesier as time went by. It wasn’t until about 5 years ago when Netflix had all the original series on their list that I had sat down to watch a few for old-time sakes. Realizing that the original team were sort of cheesy, but to me it was still nostalgic.

Having said all that, coming into this new release of the Power Rangers, I was hesitant to think that it could be decent. Transformers took off with a fun film then gradually fell as each sequel came out. The Ninja Turtles movies were less than sub par. At least Michael Bay didn’t have his hands in the Power Rangers.

In case you’re unaware of the global phenomenon that became the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The story revolves around 5 teenagers who were chosen and gifted with extraordinary abilities to fight against those who threaten humanity. This movie gives us a sort of breakfast club feel by bringing together 5 completely different teens; the wayward jock, a rebel cheerleader, the autistic nerd, the runaway tough-guy, and pretty much a young Ally Sheedy who is shunned from her family because she’s “different”.

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The 5 teens stumble upon a buried spaceship and come upon Bryan Cranston’s Zordon and his little robot Alpha 5 voiced by Bill Hader. Both actors give great voice work to their respective characters. Zordon and Alpha trains the new crew to fight against his old nemesis Rita Repulsa, played by Elizabeth Banks.

Each member of the Rangers gets their chance to shine. Dacre Montgomery, the leader and the red ranger, brings strength to the film overall story, but the heart lies in R.J. Cyler, the Blue Ranger. In some way, he is the “Samwise Gamgee” of the group.

Elizabeth Banks gives us an updated, far creepier Rita, especially as she begins to wreak havoc on the citizens of Angel Grove. However, she does take it a little further into borderline campy as we progress along the story. But far less campy than the cackling witch we all remember from the original series. And, if I’m not mistaken, I believe they never mentioned her last name, Repulsa. Which may be a good thing.

There were a few things that I wished had been worked on to make this a slightly better experience than what it was. One, I did mention about Banks over the top borderline cheesy villainy. Two, when the Rangers got their zords. I had no idea what it was the black ranger had. I know in the original series he had a mammoth, but here I couldn’t make out exactly what it was he rode, assuming it was a mammoth. Three, Krispy Kreme? Really? I’ll leave that alone for spoilers sake.

Overall, the film is quite fun. I quite enjoyed the fight scenes and the climatic battle. I’ve read mixed reviews with more leaning towards being negative. Which lowered my expectations and gave me a little fear that it will be as bad as Transformers. Alas, in my honest Noble opinion, I’d go see it. Use it as an excuse to be a kid again.

MoCould Wonder Woman be the Savior of the DCEU?

wonderwoman-trailer-shell-205296Three things are certain when it comes to the Superhero Movie genre:

1) Marvel is the King of the Hill in live action movies and the Superhero Cinematic Universe.  Fox would be pretty close if it weren’t for half of their X-men movies, a reboot without a reboot thanks to an altered timeline, and the atrocity that is the Deadpool character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine….can we even call that thing Deadpool?

2) DC and Warner Brothers have taken the animated movie base by storm

3)Sony should just stay out of it. Give up and give all character rights back to Marvel…I’m looking at you too Universal.

OK, so let’s start with the first point(which by the way, we’re only going to look at the first two…number 3 is pretty self-explanatory).  When it comes to the live action superhero movies, it’s no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe(MCU) has had unlimited success at the box office, and has received acclamation from movie critics and fans alike.                  It’s counterpart however, the Digital Comics Extended Universe(DCEU) has not only received very limited success, but it seems that instead of chasing Marvel as the King of the Movie-verse, they are chasing their own tails instead. Though DC has pushed many more movies prior to the establishment of the DCEU, many of them have suffered similar (sometimes worse) criticism as these movies.

One of the most disappointing facts with the DCEU movies, is that despite the movie trailers, which are some of the best of any production based movie-verse(Fox included), these movies always fail to live up to their hype.  Starting with Man of Steel in 2011, there were many people thinking that Superman would finally get the reboot that he deserves and bring stiff competition to the MCU.  While it wasn’t terrible, it definitely didn’t excite us as much as we hoped it wood. Three years later, Warner Bros. and DC brought to us Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie in which very early teaser trailers brought us to think that these were the only two heroes we would see in this movie as it takes place just after the events of Man of Steel.  As the movie came closer to its release date, we find out that not only do we get to see Superman, and an older Batman, but we will also see the first glimpse of the First Lady of DC, Wonder Woman herself.  Once again, while this movie was not terrible, it didn’t blow us away.  One of the biggest surprises of the movie, however, was how well Ben Affleck was at personifying not only Bruce Wayne, but separating Bruce Wayne from Batman.  Despite all this, at least in my opinion, is that in every scene she was in, Wonder Woman became the dark horse and seemed to steal the spotlight from our super-duo.  Suicide Squad then became “the movie to steer DC in the right direction”.  If we were basing this just off of the movie trailers and Margot Robbie’s stellar performance as Harley Quinn, I would agree with that, but we’re not.  Yes, I understand that SS won an Oscar this year, but it was for costume design and makeup, not best acting, best picture, or anything that played significance to more than just the aesthetics of the movie, and rightfully so.

 

Now let’s move on to the second point. DC and the animated movies. There MIGHT be one bad DC animated Superhero movie, but if there is, I haven’t found it yet.  Even the Green Lantern animated movie, which basically followed the same plot as the CG disaster Ryan Reynolds starred in, was amazing.  Last week though, I watched Wonder Woman for the second time, and I’m still amazed by its quality.  From the animation to the modernized origin of Wonder Woman herself, this movie hit the nail on every account. While the comic books have set the origin for Wonder Woman in the World War II era, which by the way, the live action Wonder Woman featuring Gal Gadot as the titular character seems to be following that timeline loyally, the animated version features Diana in the modern world, secluded away from any man whatsoever with the rest of the Amazons on Themyscura, an island created by the gods specifically for the Amazons to shield them from the terrors of man and war.  Also on this island is the god of war himself Ares, a prisoner with shackles on his wrists that keep him from gaining power because of war, shackles of which only a god can remove, a punishment from Zeus for him starting a war with the Amazons. It isn’t until a US fighter pilot finds himself wrecked on this island that Diana and the rest of the Amazons see a need to interact with the rest of the outside world. Competing against her mother’s will to see who will take the pilot back to his home safely, Diana finally gets what she wants…a chance to encounter other humans, and bridge the gap between man and Amazon.  However, with the help of a traitor, Ares breaks free and unleashes Hell on earth and its up to Wonder Woman to stop him.

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This movie does a fantastic job at not only encouraging women to embrace both their strength and their beauty, but avoiding the trap of generalizing men in the process; something I hope that the live action Wonder Woman will avoid doing as well.  To be honest, I did not really know that much about Wonder Woman, as I used to see her as a lame character, wielding nothing more than a shield and a lasso, but after watching the movie, and looking into the origins, I won’t be making that same mistake again.  Now I understand that I have already mentioned DCEU movies failing to live up to the excitement that the teaser trailers create, and I am fully aware that this movie could fall victim to the same curse. However, I am a comic book fan, not Marvel, not DC, just comics in general, so I truly enjoy both, and because of that, I am cautiously optimistic that with this movie, they may have gotten it right this time, especially considering the fact that Zac Snyder is no longer running the helm.  With the new Wonder Woman set to come out early summer, this movie could not only set a new pace for DC, but possibly save it from falling apart altogether.  If you have not yet watched the Wonder Woman animated feature, I highly recommend that you check it out, and prepare yourself this summer for what could be DC’s best live action movie yet.

Get Out

Written and directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out went wide on February 24th, 2017 in the categories of Comedy, Horror, with a little Mystery & Suspense. In my noble opinion I would scale down the Horror category and narrow it to a Mystery and Suspense with some comedy. Granted the plot thickens to a moderate horrific crescendo but it was not scary to me or anyone else I went with since it was tamed with comedic overtones, which by the way was done very well.

Get Out begins with an opening scene where a black man is abducted by someone during the night on some neighborhood street. Led by Daniel Kaluuya who if you remember played Reggie in Sicario, plays the role of Chris Washington, the black boyfriend, and Allison Willams as Rose Armitage, the white girlfriend. Together for several months they decided to take the next steps that elevate their relationship to another level which would be nothing more than to meet the girlfriends parents of course. Allison is portrayed as an understanding person and just downright cool, so why wouldn’t Chris go and meet her parents. She is pretty, witty, fun, and understanding so off he goes. Surprise, that ends up not being the case as the weekend progressively compiles some quirky clues and events which lead to a situation he never could have imagined. As they arrive at Allison’s parents house, Chris notices that they have black servants on the grounds who appear to act a little odd or not as “themselves”. Allison’s parents, Bradley Whitford as Dean and Catherine Keener as Missy greet both of them warmly but later appear to be overly accommodating. Chris feels their awkward attempts to be inviting and friendly toward him are mistaken and actually reactions to the fact that their daughter is in an interracial relationship with him. Well why would that be you ask, that’s because he finds out that Allison never told her parents that he was black.

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Later Jeremy arrives for dinner played by Caleb Landry Jones, who is the off-kilter’d brother of Allison. Dusk settles and Chris unveils the fact his mother had died when he was young and this is where we find out Missy is a psychiatrist who then offers to help him quit his smoking habit through hypnosis, of which Chris politely declines. That night Chris observes those wacky servants where we now see where the latest “Get Out Challenge” is derived. After those awkward encounters Chris heads back inside where Missy awaits to convince him of trying hypnosis which sends Chris into a void called the sunken place. Let the Mystery and Suspense begin here as Chris convinces himself that it was a nightmare but that could be further from the truth. However, Chris awakens the next morning with a disgust for smoking!

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Allison’s parents remind her that it is their “annual get-together” of which Allison surprisingly acknowledges, “is that this weekend”? Well why not, Chris is here and let’s get this party started! Insert creepiness and comedy here. With guests arriving and taking a liking to Chris, he runs into a black guest that reminds him of someone so he calls his friend back home who just so happens to be a fantastic TSA officer, Rod Williams, played by LilRel Howery. I must say that Rod really makes the comedic presence known in this movie and without this character I might have been less intrigued as to the nature of Chris’ character development. His meeting with LaKeith Stanfield as Logan King, the black guest, winds up with Chris trying to get a picture of him to send to Rod. The flash goes off and its as if Logan awakens from something, turning to Chris he yells “Get Out”! Allison’s father Dean tries to cover up Logan’s outburst as if he had some sort of seizure from the flash of Chris’ camera phone but he does not buy it.

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As more events unfold it leads Chris to realize something is very wrong here so he states he wants to leave, reluctant at first, Allison agrees to go with him. Later Rod gets back to Chris about the picture he sent him. It turns out that it was an old acquaintance of theirs that went missing a while back. This flips the switch for Chris and he now has to Get Out! Worried and trying to pack his stuff we find Allison in agreement but she can’t find her keys and they are heading downstairs! Oh how convenient! Chris keeps encouraging Allison to hurry up and find her keys but no luck. Missy and Dean are waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs along with the screw loose brother Jeremy. Horrific crescendo is met here as Chris navigates his way by whatever means necessary to Get Out. Struck by Missy’s key control through hypnosis, Chris is triggered by a clink of Missy’s spoon to the vintage coffee cup of his demise.

I will leave the rest alone but Chris and his hilarious friend Rod manage to succeed but the plot that is revealed once Chris tries to leave the house is really creepy and worth a watch. So Get Out and enjoy this comedy thriller mystery suspense…

Kong: Skull Island

The King is back! There has been several adaptations since the first introduction of the famed giant ape in 1933. Everyone has seen at one time or another the iconic top of the Empire State Building, swiping at airplanes while holding on to a blonde dame. 10 years ago, Peter Jackson brought Kong to the big screen. Sitting at over 3 hours long, Kong waited til the halfway point to be revealed. Critically King Kong was a mostly solid film, but the fans weren’t wholly impressed. As stated, it took forever to see Kong, the graphics like the stampede with the dinosaurs were kind of cheesy, and not everyone was too enthused with Naomi Watts charming the big ape with a little dance number. For me personally, I thought it was a decent film despite waiting forever to see Kong. I think I made my point.

Now in 2017, with a giant monster cinematic universe underway, Kong has returned to the big screen. Unlike Kong’s predecessors, this film is set in the 70s right after the Vietnam war has ended. A team of scientists with along with a military escort ventures into an unexplored island and encounters a lost world filled with giant monsters. Upon entering the island, the military begins dropping seismic charges to the ground for land surveying purposes, not knowing the explosions angers the island’s King. From the onslaught of Kong’s fury, the survivors must find a way out of the island encountering Kong and other otherworldly giant inhabitants.

Skull Island reminds us very quickly why Kong is king on the silver screen. He gets ample screen time. We see him briefly in the opening scene, and then we are quickly thrust into the island. Instantly, with a thrown palm tree that penetrates through a chopper like a spear, we encounter a very angry Kong. Every scene with Kong is thrilling.

It’s his human counterparts that don’t quite measure up. The filmmakers made it quite clear who the focus of the film is, as it should be unlike 2014’s Godzilla. Yes, I’m still bitter. Each of the human characters have little development. We are introduced to Tom Hiddleston as an excellent tracker and wilderness expert with a somewhat mysterious military background. We never see him do the things he’s famous for. Brie Larson is coming off a big win last year as best actress academy winner for Room. Here she mostly just carries a camera and gives facial expressions to the circumstances around her. Granted towards the end, we get a connection between her and Kong which slightly resembles Kong’s history with a damsel in distress. Honestly, it felt like she’s in the movie just for that moment to happen. Sam Jackson and John Goodman are a little deeper with their presence but stick with their normal slightly unhinged authority figure with an agenda that grinds against the protagonists ideals.

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There were quite a few moments where insane stuff would happen to the scientists and the soldiers and their reaction were a bit odd. For example; trekking along the river, a group of small flying pterodactyls assaults the group carrying off one of the men, in midair tears that man apart, and then flies off. The others stay on the boat, a little shaken, moves on. “There’s nothing we can do, we have to keep moving.” One of them says. One, you have never seen flying pterodactyls before. Two, these little monsters were assaulting your group. And Three, one of your members were taken away, ripped apart and eaten before your very eyes. I would think that there would be a little more reaction than, “well, let’s move on”. That’s one of a few small nuisances from an otherwise solid blockbuster.

What differs this Kong from all other Kong movies is that the heart of Kong’s story is a love story that ends with a tragedy. We know nothing of Kong’s history. We only know that he is stolen away from his home, falls in love with a woman and dies to protect her. Which is why the fall from the empire state building is the ultimate tragedy. Thats why sequels to Kong has never worked. Although its hinted, this Kong has no love story. We are given a backstory of his solitude and why he’s king/God of the island. However, if we are to see Kong vs Godzilla (title still pending), the tragic death of Kong cannot happen which why we have this version instead and it works.

Kong is a fun, fast paced, action-packed, first-rate monster movie. It’s man versus nature in its purest form. Fans of Kong and giant monster flicks should have a pretty good time. Just don’t go expecting deep thinking, emotionally charged, or something dialogue heavy. Oh, and stay through the credits.