– By Paulie Spiceflow –
What a truly great time we live in. As a lover of monster movies, I cannot help but be absolutely giddy at the new generation of building smashing, soldier-squashing creature films coming to theaters. After a few false starts, Hollywood has managed to put out two quality kaiju blockbusters with the Godzilla reboot and now Kong: Skull Island. It won’t win any awards and doesn’t quite measure up to the classic, but it does deliver on everything it promises.
If you don’t like cheesy monster movies, you won’t like Kong. Course, you don’t need me to tell you that. The trailers gives a pretty clear picture of what kind of movie it is. It is a sci-fi action movie that plays fast and loose in the plausibility category, contains some not so enthralling dialogue, and delivers an over-the-top ending. For those of us that love monster movies, that is what the doctor ordered.
Skull Island takes place at the end of the Vietnam War. The Monarch program is underway, tracking Godzilla and other weird phenomena in the Pacific. The public is in the dark and it seems Congress is as well, judging from the early scenes in the movie. John Goodman is a crackpot with a wild theory about hollow Earth, prehistoric monsters, and other such nonsense. He needs proof and somehow manages to convince the US Government to sponsor an expedition to the mysterious Skull Island. The expedition arrives over in a squadron of helicopters dropping seismic charges, only to encounter the giant ape with explosive and tragic consequences.
Tom Hiddleston plays the clever tracker and former SAS agent. A fan-favorite but in this role, Hiddleston really doesn’t add a whole lot of his trademark charm. Brie Larson plays a war photojournalist brought along to document the expedition. I expected her to be the stereotypical damsel in distress, rescued by the compassionate nature-loving Kong. Fortunately, her character contributed a lot more than just a “somebody save me!” routine. Samuel L. Jackson did a solid job, as usual, playing Colonel Packard, a soldier in search of a new war.
All three are accomplished actors but this is a monster movie. They played their designated roles to satisfaction, that is all I can really say.
John C. Reilly plays comic relief as the eccentric WWII pilot who has been marooned on Skull Island for over twenty years. He manages to deliver the most emotion: from laughs to indescribable sadness in telling the tale of his separation from home and family for over two decades.
It is unclear if Skull Island is in the same universe as Peter Jackson’s King Kong but the circumstantial evidence suggests it isn’t. It is, however, in the same universe as Godzilla. A battle royale between the two legends appears to be in the works.
It lacks the subtle themes of the classic and Jackson’s version. Rather than a critique humanity’s arrogance and cruelty, Skull Island tries to make some sort of antiwar commentary. Jackson’s character sees an enemy in Kong, nothing more. He is the classic warrior stereotype, fight first ask questions later. There is an interesting scene with Kong and Jackson glaring at one another perhaps trying to convey that they are both primal beasts doing only what is in their nature. Fight.
Make no mistake, this movie will not make you think. It is a popcorn-munching, explosions, and scary monsters flick.
Where does it fit among the monster movies? It is better than Pacific Rim but I think the Godzilla reboot is still the best of the new generation of monster movies. The action, special effects, and stunts are all pretty impressive, as expected. Skull Island will satisfy as a fun monster movie for those who don’t want to think for a few hours.
Paulie Spiceflow is a regular contributor, movie reviewer and unbelievable smart ass. He prides himself on his excessive knowledge of movies, TV, books, internet memes, and pop cultural references. During college, he spent minimal hours studying but took full-advantage of the free internet and lack of bills to broaden his knowledge in numerous genres including spoof comedy, fantasy, Shakespeare, military history, zombies, and cartoons.