Written by Joshua Ballze
What can I say, the big gorilla has always had a special place in my heart. Both as a Movie artist, and as a Fossil Guy. Long before Jurassic Park or Jim Henson‘s (The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth) Dinosaur show or even the Flintstones, King Kong roared to life and brought with him a prehistoric world that to this day still inspires wonderment. So, when a new Kong movie was announced, you can imagine the bar was set very very high.
After watching the new movie over the opening weekend, there’s a lot to digest. And also a lot to dispel. I’ve seen ranting and raving critics, praising this to be an absolute amazing monster movie and even praise it higher then Jurassic Park, rest assured it isn’t any of those things. For starters, this Kong has no Dinosaurs. That’s right, each of skull Islands prehistoric residents aren’t anything close to being a dinosaur. Even a flock of bizarre pterosaur swordfish bat things just barely pass as something that screams “prehistoric”. So, that was already a huge negative strike against the film for me.
That said, I’ll take note of the remakes, which started around 1976 with Jeff Bridges (Kingsman: The Golden Circle and TRON) and visual effects by Star Wars artist Rick Baker (Men in Black and Planet of the Apes). Sounds awesome right, well sadly it suffered from what the new film suffers, no Dinosaurs. No real awesome giant beasts to battle or taunt the rescue crew of stranded sailors. Just Kong running around the island with his prize girl, fights a snake, gets captured, and ends up in the city.
Universal then tried again to reboot Kong back in 2005. Directed by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) of Lord of the Rings fame, its probably the most true remake. Also, the longest remake or possibly any film. The directors cut of Jackson’s Kong brings the films running time to a whopping 3 hours! And now here we are, in 2017 with Kong Skull Island.
What I see this film as, which helped me digest it a bit better, was a remake of the 70’s film more then the original. The mythos and Kong’s relationship with the islanders, the pretty girl, the would be rescue party, that awesome fight with a T-Rex, a cave dwelling Plesiosaur, a giant Pterodactyl, a finale on the empire State Building in New York….forget all of it. Instead we are given a very 70’s inspired “Apocalypse Now” Kong film once again set in the 70’s, but this time with Nick Fury and Loki. True to form, it revolves around a group of military guys fresh from the Vietnam War, who are then hired to fly to skull Island and napalm the holy hell out of it.
This leads to a confrontation with Kong, who just slaps over a dozen helicopters out of the sky after they carpet bomb his front lawn. I’d honestly do the same. Nick Fury then decides that he’s going to go kill Kong. Mind you this is after loosing roughly a dozen helicopters. And after seeing a few chain guns and 50 caliber rounds have no effect and instead result in a Kong sized Monkey Spanking. But hey, he’s Nick Fury, so sure why not. We are then dragged around the island where we get amusing but slapped together encounters with what I can only describe as the Pokemon benchwarmers, the ones that didn’t make it into the game or the cartoons. There’s a Swamp Grass Cow-mon. The Buzzsaw Poke-Batdactyl. A Bambo Spider Pokecrab. A giant Poke Logbug. And finally, the “Skull Crawlers”. Giant Flamingo legged Iguana Lizard-moles that wipe out all the giant apes on the island.
Except Kong of course, who clearly knows Ape Fu and goes on to wipe out countless numbers of the leggy bastards where his entire species fell short I guess. And that’s pretty much it, Nick Fury holds a grudge after being a dick and carpet bombing Kong’s home and Kong just runs around being Kong. Fairly cut and dry. What carries the most weight in this movie, is that it owes its sole existence to Godzilla. The whole movies attempt at some kind of plot revolves around the fictional “Monarch” group from the recent Godzilla film.
Monarchs main supervisor (John Goodman‘s character) had a past encounter with Godzilla on a boat, and has spent his life looking for him which leads him to a mysterious island. However instead of finding Godzilla he runs into Kong. Even one of the main movie battles, where Kong fights a Octopus, is a original scene from Japan’s Godzilla vs King Kong film.
And yes there’s an end credit scene, which has nothing to do with Kong, and everything to do with Godzilla and other Toho characters. It’s funny to me that Loki and Nick Fury where apart of this movie because that’s how I can best describe this film if I had to sum it up within a few sentences. It’s the “Thor” of Legendary’s monster-verse. Basically, Marvel keeps making Thor films for the end credit Avengers tie in and so Thor can in turn be apart of said Avengers. That’s what we have with King Kong. He is going to be apart of this all out Monster-Verse with Godzilla and Friends, so yeah, he gets his own movie.
Overall I grade it….”Meh” as a stand along monster movie. Its nothing new to the CGI blockbuster spectacle we are now just bottle fed every summer. As far as how it stands against the original Kong from the 30’s, I’d use a Kong metaphor in saying it’s more like the new Universal King Kong ride then the old Universal Kong ride. Yeah, the new one has CGI effects because it’s basically a giant movie on a huge projector screen. But doesn’t hold a candle to the old ride. Nothing can quite replace seeing a real helicopter on fire fall from the sky in front of you, or the feel of explosions going off just feet away from your skin you can cringe from the heat. And finally, the shock and awe of a real 20 ft Robotic King Kong, roaring and thrashing to life just inches away from your eyes. Its the type of magic the original film had captured, and the new films have all but lost.