The legacy of “King Kong” dates all the way back to 1933 when a massive ape as big as a building captured the imagination of millions. Many iterations have followed including in 1976 when Jeff Bridges and a beautiful young actress by the name of Jessica Lange debuted to tame the savage beast in the remake. Japan also took their turn at making Kong a monster grappling with other maniacal other worldly creatures at Toho Studios quite successfully. The last time we saw Kong in theatres was in 2005, when Peter Jackson gave us his epic 3 hour vision of the big, hairy beast. Jackson’s version was good, but underwhelming and just a bit too long. Now, in 2017 Warner Bros. Studios is ready to create a whole new “Monsterverse”. The first film in this new rebooted “verse”, “Godzilla” from 2014 kicked off this new franchise of epic monsters. It’s now time for Kong to stamp his big foot in theatres with his debut in “Kong: Skull Island”. Which is leading up to an epic clash between two larger than life behemoths. But does “Kong: Skull Island” have the “bananas” to make this new Kong a crowd pleaser?
In 1973 while in the midst of the Vietnam War, two scientists, William Randa and Houston Brooks, have stumbled upon an island that holds mysterious scientific oddities that should be investigated. Fearing for their safety, they enlist the help of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard and his helicopter team, the “Sky Devils”. Also along for this treacherous expedition is a former military man turned tracker, James Conrad and photojournalist Mason Weaver who is on the island to record the real happenings on the island. As this diverse team steps foot on the island they never, in their wildest dream, believe they would encounter not only mammoth beasts, a native tribe, and a stranded WWII vet, but a scientific conspiracy that holds dire consequences for the team, and a future San Francisco that will be ravaged by their own bipedal beast.
“Kong: Skull Island” is the perfect popcorn adventure to ward off the winter blues and prepare us for the spring. Kong displays all the qualities of a summer blockbuster and is more than happy to wear its “B” movie tropes on its sleeve. Kong is just down right entertaining and hits all the right notes. Kong is a movie icon that’s the villain of the piece, but you can’t help yourself but to root for the ape to wreak havoc on the human invaders. The ape has not been more entertaining, but his human counterparts struggle to keep up with mediocre dialogue that tries its best to flesh out the story. Not even class act talent like John Goodman and Tom Hiddleston can save us from some of these issues. Samuel L. Jackson, on the other hand, fits like a hand in glove in this type of material and does his best to keep it “serious” while hamming it up. The big stand out, other than the ape, is John C. Reilly as Jack Harlow. Reilly is a pleasure to behold as the stranded WWII vet that has befriended the local tribe and is more or less our and the team’s tour guide to the mysterious island. He’s likable and surely is the most fun to behold next to Kong himself.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has given us the first must see monster movie of the season. Roberts has filled the film with inventive shots to behold Kong’s greatness. Roberts not keeping Kong in the shadows and exhibiting him early in the film was an obvious and brilliant stroke that’ll keep the audience glued to their seats. “Kong: Skull Island” is everything that “Godzilla” from 2014 should have been. Kong may not be as high brow as “Godzilla” wanted to be, but Kong is surely more successful for injecting suspense, thrills, and fun into an absurd monster themed film. We’ll see who the true winner is out of these two behemoths when they grapple on screen for the title of “King of All Monsters” and I for one can’t wait to see it. For now, make your way to your local cineplex and experience “Kong: Skull Island”, you’ll go bananas.