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.
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.