Through the years, Kong had other resurrections, like in “King Kong vs. Godzilla” in 1962, “King Kong Escapes” in 1967, a big remake in 1976 “King Kong” with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, “King Kong Lives” in 1986 with Linda Hamilton, another big remake in 2005 “King Kong” directed by Peter Jackson of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy starring Naomi Watts and Jack Black. After “Kong: Skull Island”, the next Kong movie is “Godzilla vs. Kong” scheduled for a 2020 release. Monster movies never die right?
The new Kong movie is directed by Jordan Vogt Roberts, whose only full length work before this is the acclaimed Sundance Filmfest coming of age comedy-drama, “Kings of Summer”. Judging from his fine work in “Skull Island”, looks like the current producers didn’t make a mistake in getting him to direct the latest incarnation of the iconic monster gorilla.
It’s not really a remake but more of a revamp of past Kong movies as big changes are made. Now set as the Vietnam War was ending in the 70s, the movie is totally set in Skull Island, Kong’s territory, and he is not shown being taken to New York like before. Kong is bigger than ever, but he’s quickly established as a beast who merits our sympathy. He is living in peace in a place where he is king, but then come these human intruders who wantonly bomb and blast his island, an uncharted place which is covered by natural storms that protect it from invaders.
A scientist, Bill Randa (John Goodman), is able to persuade the Nixon government to finance an expedition to map the unknown land which he says is a place “where God didn’t finish creation and where myth and science meet.” Assigned to lead the unit that accompanies Randa is Samuel L. Jackson as Col. Packard, who wants to explore the island’s resources.
He orders his squadron of Sky Devils to drop deadly bombs on the lost world in a sequence reminiscent of the seismic explosions in “Apocalypse Now”. The catastrophic blasts naturally anger the giant ape and what follows is a spectacular air battle with Kong destroying the choppers flying all around him, to the tune of vintage rock songs. Jackson is so incensed that he considers it as his personal fight with Kong.
But two of his companions, Tom Hiddleston (looking more fit and macho now compared to his fey and puny-looking villain, Loki, in “Thor”) as Capt. Conrad, a tracker, and Brie Larson as Mason Weaver, a photographer, are more sympathetic to Kong. This is Brie’s first movie since she won Oscar best actress for “Room” and she cares for Kong, but Kong doesn’t fall in love with her the way he did with leading ladies in past “King Kong” flicks.
Also in the island is John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow, a World War II pilot who is part of the original team that went to the island and has been stranded there for 28 years. He has learned to live peacefully with the heavily painted natives with his humor and good will untouched. He steals a lot of scenes while his other companions are either being impaled, squashed or chewed up. The film touchingly ends with him and his reunion with his long lost family.
The special effects are truly quite stunning. The creature design is simply impressive and Kong has never looked quite as real and as gigantic as he does here. His fierce, turbo-charged battle with the big lizard-looking monster in the film’s climax is very well conceived and executed that our 3-year old grandson shouted “Yehey!” when it’s over, making the viewers around us laugh out loud. There are other monsters like an enormous spider, a scary octopus and a gargantuan water buffalo.
Overall, this latest Kong revival is a good fast-paced popcorn adventure flick that refreshes the genre and will surely help perpetuate the Kong franchise. It’s surely more of a blast than the last “Godzilla” movie. Don’t leave the theatre right away as there’s a preview of the next movie they’re making and yes, Godzilla makes an appearance.