–By Sean Derrick
In what has been a series of reboots over the past decade of franchises held dear by the general public it was only a matter of time before the story of King Kong was given the once-over.
In KONG: Skull Island (Warner Bros. March 10) director Jordan Vogt-Roberts does what no other director has done; get KONG right. Past KONG adventures have either left us with either great special effects, but lackluster storytelling, or decent acting but stale storytelling, or terrible effects, storytelling and acting and a KONG-sized load of goofiness. This time it all comes together in one epic thriller.
Too often the story in the previous KONG movies are extremely predictable: Kong falls in love with the girl and kidnaps her, and/or she is offered up as a sacrifice to KONG by the local tribe, or the team captures KONG and brings him back to the U.S. only to escape and wreck havoc in New York., blah blah blah. Yawn. Well, this one is certainly different. None of those stupid clichés from past movies or the long drawn out anticipation only to see KONG for the last 1/3 of the movie. No, this movie shows the King of the Jungle, and lots of him in an intense raging and personable fashion.
With a stellar cast that evokes as much emotion and connectivity with its characters as one would expect from a blockbuster film the audience starts to feel and empathize with the main characters. This is done properly, with character introductions and builds on them throughout the movie.
Led by a stellar job from leading man Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers, Thor) who plays (former Captain) James Conrad, a mercenary/tracker for hire whose experience with the British special forces and first interaction bad-assery with Bill Randa (JohnGoodman) lands him the gig of leading Randa’s team to safety.
Randa, who is the head of MONARCH, a monster-hunting outfit that has been funded by the U.S. government since the late 1940’s, has been relegated to begging a Senator for one last hunt to prove that monsters exist, lest people think he is a crack pot. He puts together a scientific team with a military escort to head to Skull Island, a remote island in the Pacific surrounded by a constant storm that makes it nearly impossible to penetrate with technology of the day.
Let’s back up. The movie is set in 1973, just as the U.S. had declared an end to its involvement in the Vietnam War and a crack flight team is redirected just as it is about to be sent home. The team is led by Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a career military combat veteran who questions the value of his numerous commendations if the U.S. is not going to finish the job and just pulls out of Vietnam. So he jumps at the chance to inflict damage and to matter again.
Brie Larson is war photographer Mason Weaver who Larson blames for the hatred of the war brewing at home. She is assigned to cover the expedition because of her experience in the field, and that doesn’t sit well with Larson.
After penetrating the storm that surrounds the island it is not long before the team starts dropping seismic charges to “check the geology” of the island it isn’t long before KONG emerges and decimates the entre helicopter unit.
After an initial contact with KONG doesn’t go so great the blood-thirsty Packard is Hell bent for revenge and orders his men to kill KONG. Meanwhile, the other group of survivors led by Conrad are separated from Packard and find a tribal establishment with an American pilot who crashed during WWII, Lt. Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly). Reilly nearly stole the show with his witty banter, likeable personality and comedic charm. In fact, without Marlow’s character this would have just been another decent movie with great graphics, but Reilly really brought the film together with his aforementioned traits.
However, Reilly isn’t in the movie just to be a generic comedic sidekick. He has some dramatic scenes and even though he appears loopy at times is the one who knows the jungle the best, and seems to be the wisest person in the groups at times.
What ensues is a fantastic full-on joyride of emotions. This intense and riveting thriller has plenty of action, suspense and comedy with a good plot twist. The graphics are great, the soundtrack is awesome and the effects jump right out at the audience, while getting pretty icky at times (If you have a squeamish stomach for giant bugs be forewarned there are a couple of scenes that will make you cringe).
The film also delves into the idea of social order, specifically that sometimes what you think is your enemy is needed for the balance of nature, and that in fact, it may not be such a bad thing.
With a running time of just under two hours the movie really flies by, not dragging at all. It seems more like 90 minutes.
When the credits roll push aside the desire to head for the exits. As with all the Marvel movies this has one special scene left. Those who stayed cheered loudly at what was revealed. If you are into this genre of movies, you might too.