The latest monster movie from Hollywood, Kong: Skull Island, is swinging your way soon. Ready for it? I hope so.
Kong is a long standing Hollywood legend. The original was done in 1933. The iconic imagery of him climbing the Empire State Building, dangling Fay Wray in a single paw and basically conquering New York City is emblazoned in the cinema lore. That was 84 years ago.
Later, Kong fought Godzilla in 1962. Kong seemed to win the battle, after losing badly initially, but once the two titans fell over a cliff into the ocean the battle ended. Godzilla disappeared. Kong swam off and the Japanese soldiers wisely stopped pursuit of the mighty beast.
Kong was remade in 1976 and 2005, and now the adventure continues. The new plot from the production reads as follows:
“A team of explorers and soldiers travel to an uncharted island in the Pacific, unaware that they are crossing into the domain of monsters, including the mythic Kong.”
That is not entirely accurate. Bill Randa (John Goodman), is the instigator of the fateful mission. He runs a company called Monarch which is all about tracking down the unusual, the mythic and the unbelievable. In a nutshell – monsters. However, stating that upfront to the soldiers would be problematic/insane so he keeps the prospect of monsters to himself.
Randa brings a pair of scientists, Brooks (Corey Hawkins) and San (Tian Jing) along with a tracker, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and a photographer (Alison Brie) into the jungle to explore uncharted territory. He finagles the military escort led by Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson).
Now there is a predictable routine to a monster movie as you know. The innocents get in the cross hairs of the monster(s) and then the cat and mouse game starts. The body count blossoms from there. In this film it starts with Kong going berserker on the incoming helicopter crews since they just dropped seismic charges (bombs) onto his island in an effort to due geological mapping via sonar. Kong not happy.
The treat of watching Kong go ape while the humans are all in various states of awe, shock, confusion, horror, disbelief is quite enjoyable. Even Randa is quickly aware that they are on for a whole lot more “monster action” then he had anticipated.
This Kong film was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts who has primarily been a TV director – having only two features under his belt. Neither of which are the CGI spectacle that is Kong. Yet he seemed to pull off the job rather well all things considered.
Sadly this first encounter with Kong is the high point of the film for me. Much action ensues. Most of it pretty decent. But the character development in the movie is tragic.
Kong: Skull Island was written by Dan Gilroy of Nightcrawler (2014) and Max Borenstein of Godzilla (2014). It has been announced that Borenstein will be writing on the next Godzilla: King of Monsters film and the Godzilla vs Kong film to follow that. Hope they get it better next time around.
The actors in this cast are all excellent but the dialogue they are given is wooden and each character is shown to have some depth or backstory element, at some point, then they act in total contradiction to that element shortly afterwards. One expects little real logic in the monster of a movie like this. Sure, we all get that. But people still need to act and/or react like semi-real people to be at all engaging. Troubling indeed.
This film screamed for a script doctor. Whedon me up some dialogue and dilithium crystals, Scotty! The shame of it that the broad strokes of the film are interesting and promising. Kong in the Vietnam era. Cool. Not in New York but in a remote local. Great. That is where he belongs anyway.
So while I do love me some monster bashing this is an average film at best. If you want to see what a scary skull-crawler looks like then sure, go see it (Pro tip – look at a Brian Lumley book cover). I did enjoy the action. I confess. Certainly some of you will too. Buy extra popcorn and stay for the post credits scene. Kong will satisfy your monster craving if nothing else.