“Kong: Skull Island” – Still the King

So, this is a late review, more of a streaming review, of “Kong: Skull Island” and I have to say that it definitely kept my interest for the 2 hour run time.  Now this probably falls into the category of action, adventure, fantasy, but in my humble opinion skates along the edges of science fiction and fact as well.  Don’t take that last part too seriously, but I figured it important to point out since there was a group of scientists seeking to uncover some hidden truths about the world around us in the the form of exploration of undiscovered territory on our still vast and not fully explored planet.  I found this one of the more exciting points of the movie.  And let’s be honest… you can never get enough of King Kong right?

In this particular take on the legend of King Kong, we find a story that is based on more of a post origin story falling somewhere before the classic Kong movies where he’s actually more known of in legend.  This brings us to the major plot of the story where we find a team of scientists lead by John Goodman’s character, government agent Bill Randa, who for many years had suspected that there were places on the Earth that been unexplored and contained secrets that man considers to be lost to time.  He acquires permission and resources, including a military escort, to go on an exploratory mission to an island that is hidden in the Pacific Ocean.  His team includes geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) who follows a hollow Earth theory and staunchly supports Bill Randa in his pursuit of the truth behind Skull Island, Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran and head of the military escort,  James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), former British Special Air Service Captain who is hired for his renowned tracking abilities and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a photojournalist and peace activist who tags along and is seeking her own version of the truth.  These are the main characters along with others who infiltrate the island only to discover that it’s a place of both wonder and terrors untold.

For this movie, we see another outing by John Goodman, which I’m really glad to see.  He’s been on fire in his career as of late and turned in some solid performances.  Kong was no different for the actor as he portrayed a man filled with secrets and hidden anguish and simply wishes to prove that he’s not one of those folks that appear to be crazy because they have a far fetched idea.  His portrayal conveyed the desperation this character felt in proving his point not only for himself, but for the benefit and safety of the world.  In this point he held a singular vision.  To fortify this portrayal, we have Corey Hawkins, coming off his stint as Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton, turning in a decent performance as the somewhat nerdy and awkward geologist who was just as passionate about discovering the truths surrounding this mysterious island.  His character, I think, didn’t really afored for him as an actor to shine, but gave enough in the supporting actor role to convey the criticality of taking on the mission.

Of course there’s Samuel L. Jackson as the disturbed Lt. Colonel Preston Packard.  I mean, what can I really say about Samuel L. Jackson playing a highly decorated and respected Vietnam veteran who goes on an excursion to fight King Kong himself except that he was awesome as usual in the role.  The thing I probably really appreciated the most about his portrayal was that he really conveyed the effects of war and that for some, there can be no truly going home from such an ordeal.  This brings me to Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of a former SAS operative.  Hiddleston has certainly been one of my favorite actors since his portrayal of Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  In most of his characterizations, he gets the job done in conveying the head space of each character he plays.  In this outing it’s no different.  He plays a former SAS officer who happens to be a gifted tracker and feels similarly to the Colonel Preston, but manages to maintain a firmer grip on reality.  In the end he comes off as a solid voice of reason for the expedition and manages to demonstrate a strength that goes beyond the typical job of soldiering.  All in all a solid performance though not quite as over-the-top and dramatic as his Loki stint.

With all that we have other good performances by Brie Larson, a curious and talented anti-war photojournalist who comes along for the ride, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell (of Easy E fame) and Shea Whigham who plays another deliciously off kilter character of whom I wish I could’ve seen more of in the film.

I know we live in a time of movie making where many older films and stories are rehashed as though there aren’t some good story ideas floating around in the creative sea.  But, I did thoroughly enjoy this retelling of the Kong story.  As mentioned, it wasn’t an origin story, though we get a little back story on the protagonist and antagonist and the higher order conflict that takes place in the movie.  The revisit of Kong in this instants seemed to be more of a reintroduction of the legendary beast, or better yet, an introduction of the legend to the outside world.  The story probes the relationships and bonds that are formed in the midst of a primal  conflict that brings into question our place on the evolutionary scale.  Much of this is demonstrated by the actions of Kong himself as he displays characteristics and a level of intelligence that puts many humans to shame.  It was beautiful to see creatures that demonstrated such abilities, but also terrifying due to the raw strength and seeming invulnerability to our best military tactics.  By the end, I found myself impressed with the overall character and grace of Kong as he knew who his real enemies were and those who really needed protecting, something that I thought definitely differentiates him from Godzilla who seemed to be more concerned about protecting his status as alpha predator indiscriminately.

Speaking of the term “evolution” which I use in a light sense, I have to address the other possibility that the movie may have been pointing to.  Maybe the average moviegoer would immediately attach the theme of “Kong: Skull Island” with the idea of evolution, but looking further into some of the ideas associated with the island, one can’t wonder if there was a message on the idea of creation as well.  The movie immediately points out that the island is surrounded by a hurricane laden shroud that is always there.  That in and of itself was the first issue – how do they get past it.  It kind of reminded me of Themyscira.  You know, the island full of beautiful and deadly Amazons who were created by Zeus and given their own island that was protected by a shroud of invisibility so that they may live in peace, untouched by the impurities of the outside world?  Not really an evolutionary thing I think.  Skull Island felt similar in the sense that there was this world of incredible creatures that had been protected from the outside world by this mysterious, never ending hurricane front that was accidentally discovered.  Then when visitors from the outside try to invade, they’re crushed by the reality of the true food chain.  These are ideas that are perpetuated by many conspiracy theorists which foster notions such as the flat Earth and hollow Earth.  The movie touches on the latter and leaves room to possibly explore this idea in future films.  I wouldn’t be opposed to further exploration of the island before movie makers decide to drop Kong off in a major metropolitan area for a little bit of building toppling.  It would also be nice if Godzilla paid a visit to the island for a little one on one action.  Hmm…we’ll see.

“Kong: Skull  Island” has 6.7 stars out of 10 on IMDb and 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, two ratings I think that are fair and well deserved for it’s one of the better legendary monster movie redos of recent time.  As  for me it definitely deserves a 7 out of 10 for solid acting, steady pace and well done creature characterization.  It has a PG-13 rating and shouldn’t be too bad for the kiddies who don’t mind a little monster bashing.  With a little under 2 hours on the run time, it’s definitely worth a viewing on the large or small screen.  So, grab some popcorn and a cola and take in a couple of hours slightly thought provoking movie fun.  Let me know your thoughts on the movie in the comments below.

***Scale of 1-10: 7.0

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Produced by

Screenplay by

Story by

Based on King Kong
by Merian C. Cooper
Edgar Wallace
Starring

 

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