Kong: Skull Island
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (2017)
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
“You are more beautiful than a hot dog and a beer at Wrigley Field on opening day.”
-Hank Marlow, played by John C. Reilly in Kong: Skull Island
When a film opens with a Samuel L. Jackson marketing promo in which he instructs: “trust me you’re going to love my movie," you know the road ahead is going to be bumpy. This guy has been in a lot of movies…a lot of bad movies. The word “trust” doesn’t seem to quite work in this situation.
From the moment you step foot on Skull Island, you realize it is not Kong that is king, it is CGI. Who needs actors when you have computers? Who needs a director when you have programmers? Let’s just find someone off the street to helm this thing, fire up the ole’ compie and let it do its thing. Why ask a human to do something that a computer can do: take us to the “Monsterverse."
There have been about eight or so films starring Kong. You probably have not seen them all and frankly do you really need to? Take your pick: There are all sorts of varieties from black n’ white, colorized, hairy versions, paunchy versions, and then there is that three-hour long version (hope you packed a lunch/dear Christ why?!). In this rendition, we finally get to the heart of the story: it is meaningless.
Set in the early 1970s, we first meet John Goodman, a dude that probably goes around asking people: do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrials? He has that Fox Mulder conspiracy theorist thing going on, but is nowhere near as suave. One might even question whether it is actually John Goodman or a body double that performed in this flick, because the acting seemed to be non-existent. Also, characters’ names – let’s not even go there. Names. They don’t matter on Kong: Skull Island. Who has times for names. The monkey is your concern. Plot points. Character development. Story. This is all meaningless. Just look at the monkey.
OK. So Goodman, he manages to weasel his way into obtaining government funding to expense his little trip to Skull Island under false pretenses that it is some sort of geological sciencey mission. In reality we are on an all-out monster hunt. So, we wrangle up our british tracker/jungle extraordinaire Tom Hiddleston from a dive bar in Vietnam. We get an army platoon headed by none other than Samuel L. Jackson to carry us there and let’s not forget our wingman Nucky’s brother. We will definitely need some evidence to bring back to the folks at home. So we call up our shutterbug friend/Academy Award Winner Brie Larson. Now this is a party. Who’s packing the sandwiches?
Someone thought it would be a wonderful idea to then hop aboard some helicopters loaded with bombs and just start randomly dropping them on an island they know absolutely nothing about. This was one of the few examples in the film in which an underlying message was attempting to be sent. The message may not be received, though, when the audience is way too concerned about when the ape is going to show up. Plus people have been killing things since the dawn of time, no big deal. These bombs, they are being dropped in the name of science…it must be done.
Wait! there is a problem though, there are creatures actually living and breathing there! HUGE creatures that get angry when you invade their home and make a mess. So this ginormous creature he starts hurting you and your pals. He knocks all your copters down and now you are just like Leonardo Dicaprio in that other movie: you gotta figure out a way off this island.
Of course, people get separated. People start shooting things they don’t understand, because hey why not, that is what we do. Some of your pals even die horrible deaths because this island we are on, it is more of a funhouse of sorts. With each step you take, another “exciting” creature is awaiting you just around the corner. Listen, you’re probably about ready to head to snooze town, but hold on to your wigs, not all of the creatures are out to tear you limb from limb. In fact, just as you are ready to walk out on this shit show, John C. Reilly stumbles along your path and makes everything better. All of a sudden an actor shows up. He starts saying lines, moving the plot along, and holy hell! We have a story.
We learn all about the King aka Kong, his family, all the places we shouldn’t venture off to and oh yeah, we learn that Riley has been there since about 1940ish after his plane crashed. So listen Chuck, we ain’t ever getting off this island. On the bright side, Riley introduces us to some nice people and tells us Kong really isn’t that bad of a guy. So life could be worse. He does kinda have this boat that is reminiscent of that car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and we have Hiddles. Yep, you see where this is all going. Might as well break it to you now, for the rest of this adventure you will be sitting on the edge of your seat just wishing and hoping Reilly doesn’t die cause without him you have nothing.
Without Reilly this film has no value. Without Reilly this is the movie you are left with:
-An over stylized music video with a bunch of songs from 1970s (hell yea! Creedence, not the fuckin’ Eagles, man) that are meant to take you back to that time you spent in Vietnam.
-A director that so wanted to make the movie of his dreams but instead was sidelined by a big gorilla. He did manage to squeeze in those Apocalypse Now tribute shots. That must have been when the ape wasn’t looking. With that said, the director’s goal was to make a throwback to the original 1933 King Kong in which Kong is portrayed as simplistic and iconic; this was achieved.
-If you are into this sort of thing…a lot of gnarly deaths.
The actors play second fiddle to a bunch of impressive computer graphics. Maybe they knew this going in and saw it as an easy way to make some green. By the end of the film you will find that nothing really matters. Your only concern is the ape. The story and characters are simply just swimming in Kong’s world, he truly is king and human beings, well they are terrible.
*One last note, 3D does not seem to be necessary, see it in IMAX though. As they say: Go big or go home.