The world really didn’t need another King Kong movie. We have the 1933 classic (which no one is in danger of forgetting, I assure you), two separate remakes (one of which not being released that long ago), and a few weird spinoffs, not to mention the countless science fiction, fantasy and adventure films — everything from Mighty Joe Young to Jurassic Park — that clearly drew inspiration from it. I’d say the film industry has already gotten its money’s worth out of this story; and it did not require any further revisits.
But here we are in 2017 with Kong: Skull Island. Well, at least the title is different this time.
This film is set in the early 1970s and details a group of scientists, with a fresh-from-Vietnam military escort, journeying to the newly discovered Skull Island — a place shrouded in mystery — only to run into the giant ape Kong and the rest of the island’s monstrous inhabitants. Naturally, things go awry.
This is a fairly stupid and silly movie; but, I admit, it is pretty entertaining. The picture plays out like a Syfy channel flick if the budget were raised by about 200 million dollars. Everything in terms of story and acting is played with pure cheese, next to nothing here is taken all that seriously, and the few attempts made to be deep are mostly laughable. That’s okay, though. I don’t need King Kong movies to be “good”, I just want spectacle. And there is plenty of spectacle to hold you over. There’s a lot of fun action, the creatures we see are pretty cool looking, the film is very well shot, and the soundtrack — all late 60s/early 70s rock songs to complement the setting — is nice. The picture moves at a very brisk pace, taking you from one thrilling set piece to another. It feels a little rushed*; but you also never get bored. That gives it an advantage over the other modern Kong film, 2005’s Peter Jackson-directed King Kong, whose bloated 187 minute run time was ultimately detrimental; although that movie is still the better of the two overall.
It’s interesting to note that the film seemingly takes inspiration from various Vietnam films, most notably Apocalypse Now, in terms of its setting, style, and general ambience. There are even some scenes which appear to directly nod to ones in the 1979 classic. It doesn’t add up to too much in terms of enriching the picture, but it’s an intriguing approach and does make this movie stand out a bit more.
It’s also worth mentioning that this movie is part of an expanded universe that also includes 2014’s Godzilla; and supposedly we’ll be getting a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla in a few years. I look forward to that movie whenever it comes out, although I will say that Kong: Skull Island didn’t really take advantage of that connection beyond a few easter eggs. Given that the movie doesn’t take itself that seriously anyway, a few direct references to Godzilla would have been amusing and helped to generate some buzz**.
To sum up, Kong: Skull Island is not great, but it is a decently entertaining movie; and I do recommend checking it out. Sometimes, dumb escapism is all you need to enjoy yourself at the theater. And on a side note, here’s hoping King Kong vs. Godzilla will be as awesome as it should be.
*The movie currently sits at just under two hours in run time, but based on some weird scene transitions and creatures that are referred to but never shown, I get the feeling that there was a lot of content cut out of this picture. Maybe we will see a three-hour Kong: Skull Island: Redux in a few years?
**Evidently there actually are some direct references in a post credits scene. That’s what I get for not sitting all the way through the credits.