Kong: Skull Island (PG-13)

Starring Samuel Jackson, Tom Hiddleson, and Brie Larsen, Kong: Skull Island is the latest of the shiny new Hollywood remakes.  The looming question is – Will a $190 million budget including the best CGI and special effects money can buy make this a movie great?  In Kong, this diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers comes together to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific.  As the team enters into the domain of the mighty Kong, they ignite the ultimate battle between man and nature and the exploratory mission morphs into a fight for survival.

We just saw Samuel in The Legend of Tarzan last summer, and here he is, back in the jungle again, messing around with more primates.  He was also recently featured in Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children running around with some Tim Burton created creatures.  So, please understand when I say I had reservations about seeing this picture.  I understand that Hollywood’s objective is to generate fresh dollars and they stick to the tried and true stories a/k/a remakes for a reason, and I also understand that originality creates monetary risk.  I was just praying this wouldn’t turn into another 2 hours of PG-13 nonsense that I would regret having wasted.

It wasn’t. Kong: Skull Island, like any other Kong, is a pretty good flick – $190 million worth of good is debatable – but pretty good.  Kong was most likely released in March to beat the crowded upcoming summer of big budget blockbusters and avoid the post summer turn to serious movies considered to be contenders for awards.  Kong makes perfectly satisfying, mindless, movie watching.  If that’s what you’re looking for, Kong delivers.

All the action takes place on Skull Island, of course, and not in New York like classic Kong, so some movie goers were disappointed. I don’t know where so many people got the idea there would be a New York setting here, but this is not classic Kong.  And if you’re looking for creativity, you won’t really find it here either.  It is a “remake” and there is but so much wiggle room a classic story can have, before it becomes a different story.

Filmed in Hawaii and Vietnam, I loved the set design and setting because this island felt authentically remote. The plot was unbelievable (when I say “unbelievable,” I mean silly and unrealistic) in places, but so is the entire story, so what else can one expect.  There were quite a few flaws in the writing, and I must say, I have never seen a photographer take so few pictures while seeing so many extraordinarily incredible sites as Brie Larsen’s character.  The acting is what it is under the circumstances; there will be no thespian nominations.  And it’s one of those movies with one curse word throughout the entire thing, which, as always, I despise.

Similarly to the story of Tarzan, the racial and sexist overtones of the entire story persist here. Listen, the original Kong was written circa 1930 by some white dude, so I won’t sit and rehash that.  Didn’t know him and I don’t believe anyone questioned him at the time about racism or sexism.  It is his story, he told it his way.  If he was a racist then yes, some element of the story  might be racist.  Like any other characteristic of anyone who has ever told a story may be infused into their story, the author’s characteristics are a part of the story.  I’m not saying it’s right or wrong; it just “is.”  If you’re offended by the story itself, naturally, you won’t go see the movie.  Thankfully, we all have a choice.

Anyway, the single expectation I was not willing to back down on for a film which weighed in at nearly $200 million was the effects. To answer the original question, bigger and more does not necessarily mean better, but the action sequences featuring Kong and the other mythical creatures were pretty darn cool.  It is a nice way to introduce a new generation who may not necessarily know much about the history of Kong, to his world.

Kong: Skull Island earned 7.5 out of 10 bloops. It’s a good movie worth seeing, and particularly worth seeing on the big screen once, if you’re into it.  Some may feel it doesn’t adhere to the original enough and others won’t think it ventures far from it enough.  Expect nothing to avoid disappointment either way and enjoy is what I advise.

Bloops:

1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

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Mini Reviews

  • Before I Fall. 7 bloops.  Worth seeing if you are a preteen or teen or if you have any at home.
  • Collide. 7 bloops.  Sir Ben Kingsley is why I went to see this and he was the main reason I stayed with it; that and the great car chase scenes.  Good looking cast, but takes too long to get to the action and some very unlikely things occur to propel the story along.
  • Table 19.  4.5 bloops.  Terrible.  Like watching an anti-comedy.  Could have been good, but the subject matter was far too serious.

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