Warner Brothers and Legendary bring you this perfectly cromulent entertainment product called “Kong: Skull Island”. Enjoy it, won’t you?
Kong isn’t really that bad a movie. It’s not a great movie, by any stretch, but it’s certainly entertaining and it’s arguably the best Kong film released in the last 80 years. Really, the downsides to it is that it feels very much like a movie conceived in a corporate board room by a committee. It lacks a spark. It lacks soul.
They made a very wise choice to set the movie in the early 70’s. If nothing else, it means that the sound track is excellent. Is “Run Through The Jungle” in there? Oh, you better believe it is. The other thing setting the movie in the past does is free up the moviemakers to have their soldiers be actual soldiers and the shadowy goons running the show be actual government issue shadowy goons. Imagine that! Because the only thing more evil than Amalgamated Evil Co is the Nixon administration.
John Goodman runs this movieverse’s version of the “Men in Black”, who are called “Monarch.”
We catch up with Mr Goodman appealing to the Guild of Calamitous Intent… er… a random Senator for permission to join up with a Landsat mission to Skull island and, oh by the way, can we also have a division of helicopters and soldiers and lots of bombs? K TXS BY! And since apparently random Senators are able to deploy American troops at a whim, this happens.
This brings us to Samuel L. Jackson who plays a Samuel L. Jackson get-this-brother-trucking-ape-off-my-brother-trucking-island colonel who receives orders to redeploy from fighting the Viet Cong to fighting the Viet Kong, though they don’t know about that yet. We also meet various and sundry soldiers that we are theoretically supposed to care about.
Concerned that none of the cast are handsome enough to be leads in a motion picture, John Goodman rushes to a nearby Seedy Bar (a division of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville) to recruit Tom Hiddleston to be in the movie by paying him many pink moneys. It is almost certainly the most true to life moment in the entire movie. And as luck would have it, attractive woman Brie Larson also blunders into the expedition by dint of no one realizing she was a woman. I cannot stress how little sense it makes for them to bring either one of these characters outside of movie marketability reasons.
The plan is fairly straightforward, fly the helicopters to Skull Island through a hurricane with the doors all hanging open. Then once that’s done, they’ll drop bombs on the island until Kong is annoyed enough to come out and start killing them. And, boy howdy, does he do that. It helps that the helicopters steadfastly refuse to move away from him during this combat so he actually manages to get every single one of the way, way more helicopters than could possibly have fit on their boat.
The good news for our heroes is that these helicopters are miracles of 1970’s design and not a single one of those not directly killed by Kong is even hurt in the resulting crashes. The next hour or so is our heroes split into two factions meandering around the island. Team Attractive People finds lost WW2 pilot and comic relief John C. Reilly who has been living among the delightfully weird natives. Mr Reilly’s slightly unhinged character brings some much-needed fun to the movie since none of the other characters outside of Samuel L. Jackson’s Packard have any personality whatsoever. That’s why it’s not really worth remembering their names.
Samuel L. Jackson’s squad, meanwhile, is searching for a lost comrade and a helicopter full of explosives. Jackson’s character very quickly goes all Captain Ahab on Kong looking to avenge the deaths of his men. And I’ve got to hand it to him, his plan is actually great! It totally would have worked and, not to get too spoilery, I’m glad that he remained utterly unredeemed and unrepentant.
The final kaiju fight between Kong and what Wikipedia assures me is called “Ramarak” is as excellent of a giant monster combat as you could hope to find. Yes, it’s a dumb movie in a lot of ways and Brie Larson spends the entire time using her 1970’s film camera like it was a modern digital camera, but the action is very entertaining and there are some fine giant monsters running around doing giant monster things.
Still, I found myself wondering why this movie needed to exist. If you find yourself asking that same question, hang around through the credits so that you can be reminded that this movie is part of a “monsterverse” and see the set up the next movie in the series.