Tom Hiddleston Samuel L. Jackson Brie Larson John C. Reilly John Goodman Richard Jenkins Corey Hawkins
This movie begs the question of why it was made at all. The story of King Kong has appeared in various media since 1933, when the original film King Kong appeared. In addition to remakes in 1970 and 2005, there have been countless take-offs of some kind or other ever since. This tale is not much different from most—a feared, gigantic monster turns out to have a heart after all. Perhaps it is related to the age-old mythological theme of something that we have feared turns out to be something we treasure. At any rate, the film also shows very clearly the destructiveness of invading lands that belong to others without even learning something about them before blustering in with guns a-blazing. This part of the film really hurts those of us who don’t feel entitled to have full rein on the rest of the world.
Kong casts aspersions on science in the form of Bill Randa (Goodman) who has learned of a hitherto unexplored island in the south Pacific where whole ships and their crew have disappeared. Now, he presents his proposal for a scientific expedition to his Congressman (Jenkins) who “owes” him. He sells it with the potential of discovering geological and other information that scientists know nothing about. In truth, his motives are not so pristine.
He is granted the funds to go, with—oh, by the way—a military escort. The war is just ending in Viet Nam, and one character at least, Packard (Jackson), is wondering what on earth he is going to do without a war. He is only too happy to lead the military escort. “Thank you”, he says at the end of the phone conversation engaging him in a rather dangerous mission. He has more than enough hubris to be confident he can take on anything. The team does have the foresight to recruit an experienced tracker in the wild, James Conrad (Hiddleston), who should be able to get them out of threatening situations. Because the movie needs a woman, a wartime photographer, [cleverly misleading name of Mason Weaver (Larson)] has applied and is given permission to go along.
Of course, you know they encounter Kong, King of Skull Island, now 328 feet tall, who snatches helicopters out of the air like they were toys. But note that this is after the “scientists” have dropped bombs into the terrain to ascertain its makeup. Not only does this bring out Kong, who is trying to protect his island, but other much more sinister creatures.
Cinematography (Larry Fong) and special effects are impressive, but scenes of fighting with the monsters go on far too long, with too many characters rapidly flitting on and off the screen to keep track of. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and editor Richard Pearson could have easily trimmed the two-hour production and/or focused on more character development. Back-stories of the main characters would help us care more about them and understand their motivations for what they do.
We do get that for John C. Reilly, a consummate actor for oddball characters. His story is interesting and (mostly) plausible, and the way he relates to the native humans and animals is interesting as well as admirable. The roles of Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, and Brie Larson are familiar and ones they do very well. Jackson is a hardheaded military man with a black-and-white view of the world and people. Hiddleston is a quiet, modest hero with considerable clout. Larson acts bravely and speaks out for a feminine point of view in a testosterone-laden story.
If you never tire of the oft-repeated King Kong story, then this one is for you.
Grade: C- By Donna R. Copeland