May 27, 2024

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Geek Review: Kong: Skull Island

Kong's back, and he's full of allegory.

King Kong first amazed audiences in 1933.  The image of a giant ape stomping first through a prehistoric jungle and then later New York City before climbing the Empire State Building while clinging to a beautiful blonde captured the cultural imagination of people ever since.

There have been more than a few attempts to go back to Kong and his home on Skull Island, and the most recent is titled, naturally, Kong: Skull Island.

The movie opens in 1973.  The Vietnam war is winding down, protestors are in the streets, and scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman) is making what may be his last pitch to explore some secret island in the middle of a permanent storm system.  He manages to recruit a disgruntled war hero, Colonal Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his helicopter crews, plus expert tracker and former SAS man James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston).  Anti-war photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) gets permission to come along, and with a crew of soldiers and civilian scientists, the group is soon on its way to the mysterious Skull Island, a place with a Bermuda Triangle-esque reputation.

Things go badly when the seismic bombs meant to somehow map the surface of the island arouse the wrath of an one hundred foot tall gorilla.  As things soon turn out, the survivors are quickly separated.  Packard wants vengeance against the ape.  Randa wants to get proof of Kong’s existence back to civilization.  And the others, along with a long lost World War II era pilot named Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), just want to get off the island alive and in one piece.

Reilly’s Hank is actually the movie’s much-needed comic relief.  Granted, a movie about a giant ape can be taken only so seriously, but Hank’s been living on the island a long time with the human natives, and he knows a thing or two about Kong and the other things on Skull Island.  It seems Kong might not be the bad guy here, though in a portentous line of dialogue, one soldier notes you can always find an enemy if you go looking for one.  And, in another, we’re told Kong isn’t done growing yet.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts makes the most of the Vietnam analogy.  Jackson’s Packard just can’t stand the idea of putting a lot of effort into a war and not prevailing, so the idea of leaving any business unfinished goes against his very moral fiber.  While it isn’t too hard to guess who the truly expendable characters are, Skull Island runs very well as a largely standard giant monster movie.  What makes the movie stand out is the Vietnam imagery.  Many of the shots look like they could have been ripped right from Apocalypse Now or Platoon.  Heck, John Goodman’s first line notes Washington will never be as chaotic as it is at that moment in time (I heard at least one person at my screening chuckle at that idea).  A fun time overall, I’m giving it eight out of ten giant spiders.

Oh, there is a post-credits scene.  Kong is due to meet up with the new American Godzilla at some point in the near future.