‘Kong: Skull Island” is not a good movie. No. And it’s not a great movie either. It’s an entertaining one. But good? No, absolutely not.
There are going to be a lot of people who enjoy this rendition, and rightly so — the movie is beyond eye candy — it’s a syrupy nectar of pure cane sugar, drizzled into the eye balls. This version of King Kong is pure pulp fiction at its finest (or maybe worst?), like a cheap 1970s paperback of a trashy jungle adventure novella, or something out of the best of Weird Tales Magazine.
John Goodman finds some excuse to lead an expedition, escorted by Samuel L. Jackson and his platoon of military bros, to the uncharted Skull Island in the Pacific. I use the term “military bros” because they have some of the worst cliché back-and-forth buddy banter of Vietnam soldiers, that they might as well be saying the word “bro” at the end of every sentence.
Since they need a token sophisticated sounding British man who has all of the common sense, they recruit Tom Hiddleston, whose name you won’t remember, and token Kong movie babe in the form of Brie Larson, who, like all poorly written female characters in action movies, is there to look pretty and shoot pictures on her camera rather than really add anything to the overall plot. Larson does great with the very little she is given in terms of quality dialogue, which is a whole lot of not much — but that can be said for every actor in the movie. Anyway, Kong is truly the star here. The human characters exist only for the camera to follow them and get to introducing Kong as explosively as possible.
When the military bros drop bombs on Skull Island, Kong shows up, smashy-smashy smash smash, and 30 minutes in (or maybe less) we’re already on Skull Island and things have gotten real. “Get off the island” is the only plot. The heart and focus of the movie is Kong himself, and a hilariously crazy U.S. fighter pilot from WWII (John C. Reilly) who has been stuck on the island way too long and just wants to go home back to Chicago. Reilly steals everything great in the movie that Kong doesn’t.
Kong is a really nice guy actually, a giant god-like ape that protects the islanders from the diverse ecology of almost-exclusively ancient primordial monsters. But when military bros show up dropping bombs in his back yard, well, he’s not going to take that lying down! But the military bros warmongering ways have woken up Kong’s arch nemesis, the Skullcrawler monster — now with jaw-snapping action and glow in the dark eyes! Now the Skullcrawler is back and has a score to settle. Will Kong realize his destiny and fulfill his dreams of being the protector of the racially ambiguous islanders and the obnoxious military bros bombing his jungle? Tune in and find out after this commercial break! Brought to you by Coca Cola!
This version of the Kong creature has been incredibly detailed and rendered. Although completely CGI, the effects of Kong himself are unbelievably fantastic and is probably the best looking rendition we’ve gotten of him. That and the action scenes are at very high levels of awesome.
Kong is a full on good guy in this movie, able to differentiate between humans who mean to harm him and those who understand his simple plight — he is essentially Skull Island’s resident old man, telling those crazy kids to “get the hell off my lawn!” He really just wants to eat calamari and be left alone. You’ll get it if you see the movie.
Although an incredible amount of care and love has been put into Kong, the monsters of Skull Island and the locale itself, everything else here is as hollow as the ground that Skull Island sits on (the Skullcrawlers live in hollow caverns inside the earth, conveniently underneath the island). “Kong: Skull Island” isn’t a good movie, but it doesn’t try to be. And frankly, with a title like “Kong: Skull Island,” what were you really expecting? The movie is practically trying to get the audience to turn its collective brain off when watching it, just loading the masses into the seats and sending them on an indulgent sensory overload.
Wanna’ see Kong use a tree like a baseball bat on a big, mean monster? This is your movie. Wanna see him do it again, repeatedly? This is your movie. Wanna see a deep analysis of the extent of humanity’s inner darkness and the psychological horror of desperate survival during brutal warfare? You’re looking for something more in the “Apocalypse Now” territory.
Kong is best experienced with a giant bucket of popcorn, king-sized candy and the biggest soda you can buy, as it is a movie born to appeal to the basest enjoyments and American movie tastes. If this “Kong” is the king of anything here, it’s of trashy B-rate popcorn movies. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Warning: This movie may induce gluttonous urges for junk food and other B-movies such as “The Mummy” (1999), “Con Air” and “Water World.”
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“Kong: Skull Island” is currently playing at the Riverside Cinemas, 1017 S. Boone St. in Aberdeen.
George Haerle holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing for media and lives in Cosmopolis.