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Kong: Skull Island (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 29

Kong: Skull Island


Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Shea Whigham.

Screenplay by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly.

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts.

Distributed by Warner Bros.  118 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

If you are looking for a whole bunch of giant CGI animals beating the crap out of each other and periodically stepping on tiny humans, then Kong: Skull Island will be your jam.

If you are looking for other things, like a coherent plot and complicated characters, well there are plenty of art films out there for you to check out.

Kong: Skull Island is simply movie making as action-packed eye candy.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, there is a certain skill to putting together an enjoyable shut-off-your-mind super blockbuster.

The fights and special effects in Kong are pretty damned impressive, and at the preview screening of the movie that I attended, a good portion of the audience cheered every huge monkey punch, every deadly lizard lunge, every giant spider step.  It is an impressive piece of popcorn filmmaking.

Just don’t think about it too much.  If you give it any real thought, Skull Island evaporates like a giant flying bird smashing into a mountain wall.

The idea of Skull Island is very loosely based on some legendary scenes and outtakes from the original King Kong movie in 1933.  The short action sequences, in which the giant ape takes on some deadly dinosaurs on his home island, and a group of giant spiders killed some soldiers, mostly ended up on the cutting room floor when the classic film was released, however this footage has been rescued and renovated by film historians over the decades (except for the giant spider footage, which seems to be lost to history).

Of course, despite the fact that it was also an action film, the original King Kong took on some much larger themes: Just because something looks monstrous, does that necessarily make it a monster?  Would pure beauty kill the beast?  Is it man’s right to assume dominance over creatures it does not understand?  If a monster is attacked, doesn’t it have the right to defend itself?  Must men colonize every place they land on; can’t they leave some of Earth to the purity of nature?

Kong: Skull Island flirts with some of these broader themes – Kong seems to have a mini monkey-crush on pretty expedition photographer Brie Larson, and long shipwrecked soldier John C. Reilly keeps reminding us that Kong is a good creature who has kept the island safe from evil and is now only protecting his home.  Also Samuel L. Jackson, at his most Snakes on a Plane intense, is the personification of unhinged Apocalypse Now military colonialism.

But, mostly it’s about the fights, the explosions, and the jump scares.

Which, again, is all right.  Kong: Skull Island has no real pretentions to art, it is a thrill generator.  Getting you to jump in your seat is its job, and mission accomplished.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: March 10, 2017.


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