(AOTN) The main problem with all of these mega-blockbuster films, going back to the original King Kong has always been incorporating the human elements with these massive monsters, whomever they may be. It’s one thing to make the monsters in these flicks look visually compelling enough to keep the audiences fleeting interest at bay, let alone tell a compelling story. For example, the thing that the 1993 original Jurassic Park or 1995’s Independence Day had were compelling HUMAN characters. Sure these movies used the newest and baddest special effects of the time, the thing that separated these from the rest of the Blockbusters are the human characters audiences can get behind. Independence Day doesn’t work without Will Smith or Jeff Goldblum. Jurassic Park isn’t the same film without Sam Neil or Jeff Goldblum (this is not to say Goldblum is the glue of forming a Blockbuster, I completely forgot he was in both until I wrote this but he IS fantastic). Having digressed big time, it is to say Kong: Skull Island while not on a level of timeless, has proven itself a step ahead of the rest, and an exciting and valiant attempt to bring back the giant monster flicks of yesterdays past.
The original Inkg Kong trailer:
Jumping back years chronologically in Legendary’s Godzilla/King Kong Universe, the GKK as I will refer to it, Kong: Skull Island begins circa 1944. Two fighters from World War 2 (WW2) land onto an island in the South Pacific, one American and one Japanese. After engaging in some hand-on-hand combat, we are quickly introduced to the star of the show, Mr. Kong, the king of kings. Fast forward the timeline to 1973 and we are introduced to our new set of protagonists. Led by William “Bill” Randa (John Goodman) and fellow scientist, is geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) who set their sight on the unexplored “Skull Island”. With a great leading cast including but not limited to James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), Preston Packard (Sam Jackson), Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), San Lin (Jing Tian), and Jack Chapman (Toby Kebbell), the crew set out to explore the formally unexplored Skull Island.
First things first. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts did an amazing job of paying homage, yet it makes something completely unique. It’s hard to stray far from the original without people crying foul. Kong incorporates enough yet says, “hey, I’ve got something to say”! Luckily for fans, Kong doesn’t have a weird interspecies relationship with a woman, but has a satisfyingly intimate relationship with humans. Kong is the main “bad guy” but isn’t necessarily the “bad guy”. Like 2014’s Godzilla, Kong ills many a people, but isn’t maliciously killing them. Kong like Godzilla has clearly defined motives that make the audience root for that character. Humans, you me him and her, are impeding on their turf. Much like the less-than-subtle Vietnam comparisons, these creatures want to be left alone. The country of Vietnam didn’t want Western influence inflicting the destruction of their country, yet it happened. As a member of the West, shit, I’m sorry. The take-over of things that aren’t ours is in the blood and tradition of our country, and is exemplified in our arts. Enter Kong: Skull Island, a love-letter to the Vietnam era directly influencing both the aesthetics and message of the new King Kong.
Moving past my rants-and-raves and weird political metaphors, Kong: Skull Island is simply a fun action monster movie. Unlike 2014’s Godzilla, Kong doesn’t hide its titular character. Within the first 8 minutes of the film, audiences are introduced to the scale of the title character. He’s huge. People small. Kong king. People… not king Kong. This is exactly what you want out of this type of movie, it’s just done more style and care than one may expect. Going back to my initial rants, this Blockbuster seems to have been made with more care and craft than audiences expect. It’s a $200 million movie which one can walk away from and realize it was done with ONE specific vision. Now there may have very well been a too many cooks-in-the-kitchen, but it feels like one filmmakers vision of what a monster movie could be. Skull Island is done in an stylish manor that respects filmmaking in both past and present yet has a fresh feeling to it…sort of. It’s not perfect, but it will excite both nerds and average movie-goers universally. The saving grace of the film is its insane cast.
Leading the charge and keeping the audience fully locked in was the character Hank Marlow portrayed by John C. Reilly. We first met this character in the opening scenes of the film, as the American solder who fell to the island with the rival Japanese soldier. We pick this story up 29 years later, as the rest of the cast lands on the island looking for their buried treasure. The heart and soul of these movies must be the glue, and while these characters minus Reilly’s don’t quite hold up to the necessary standards, there is enough to keep audiences engaged. My real qualm with the film is the lack of character development, but thats a hard task to ask. It’s like an episode of 24. But, you have less than two-hours to complete and you have to tell both a visually strong yet cohesive story to satisfy both Democrats and Republicans. Kidding, but its hard to make everyone happy. Kong: Skull Island is a fantasic attempt at this, and is so far superior to movies like Jurassic World, it’s laughable. It’s a silly monster movie that knows exactly what it is, but strives for more.
Kong:Skull Island is now playing in theaters nationwide.