The character King Kong has both fascinated and terrified people since he made his big screen premiere in the 1933 film King Kong. In 1976 a second King Kong movie was released, followed by a third version of King Kong in 2005.
When I was a child in the 80s, I saw glimpses of the 1976 version on television, and it gave me recurring nightmares. Even now I can still vividly recall King Kong driving down the road in a fiery-red Trans Am, stopping in front of my house, where he would reach into my second story bedroom window, and pluck me from the comfort of my home while I fruitlessly tried to call out to my parents. (I don’t know if the fact that I still remember that means that I need to see a therapist. Perhaps.)
Now it’s apparently time to “Awaken the King” with a reboot of King Kong, entitled Kong: Skull Island. Confident enough that I have outgrown nightmares, I decided to give it a chance, mainly because of its well known cast, which includes Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and Academy Award winner for Best Actress Brie Larson.
Set in the 1970s at the conclusion of the Vietnam War, an eclectic mix of scientists and soldiers venture to Skull Island, an uncharted and mysterious island in the South Pacific. The soldiers, disappointed with the end results in Vietnam, look at this excursion as one last mission before heading home while the scientists view it as a quest to seek the truth about the island, the subject of a myriad of myths. Accompanying the soldiers and scientists are a war photographer and a mercenary.
As their helicopters approach Skull Island, the entourage quickly realizes that there’s a lot more danger than they bargained for, and suddenly their mission goes from a research expedition to a fight to make it out alive. Kong makes his presence felt immediately, lashing out against the intruders in a deadly way.
While Kong seems menacing and cruel, viewers soon discover that he’s not necessarily the scariest inhabitant of Skull Island. As the survivors desperately try to make it to the designated rendezvous point in time, the group seemingly splits into two; one group is led by vengeance while the other is led by a keener sense of what’s happening on Skull Island.
The movie is action-packed with realistic special effects. I jumped in my seat a few times as I discovered that King Kong isn’t the only dangerous beast lurking in the jungle.
My friend Kevin, who’s been eagerly awaiting the release of this film, attended the movie with me. Afterwards he asked, “Is this the Citizen Kane of monster movies? No, but it’s everything you want out of a King Kong movie! I really liked it.”
Kevin noted that the film had “a very interesting premise, set with the backdrop of the Vietnam War.” He explained, “I didn’t expect that dichotomy of whether we lost that war or abandoned Vietnam to play a part in facing an insurmountable creature like King Kong.” Kevin questioned the real motivation to take down Kong; was it because Kong was truly a vicious threat or because certain characters couldn’t come to grips with the end of the war? “You could empathize with the difficulties they faced,” he said.
Kevin, who admits to having “the biggest crush” on Brie Larson, said, “I loved the little nuances in the film that showed how women can do anything.” He also appreciated how, unlike some other King Kong movies where he’s presented as a legend, in this film King Kong is a legitimate character. “You weren’t waiting to see a glimpse of him. He was front and center. They made him into a compassionate protector of the island, which was cool. I really appreciated that the director gave him depth, which made him more interesting,” Kevin shared.
While the film has a PG-13 rating, Kevin and I both thought it was fairly violent and intense, and were a little surprised it wasn’t rated R. He shared, “I think the levity with the comic relief was definitely needed at times.” I just hope I don’t have nightmares about the Skull Crawlers!
Movie times: click here
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Actors: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language
Running Time: 2 hours