THE KING is in the House!
That’s right, true believers, the biggest,baddest alpha male is in charge and standing tall at 100 ft., taking on all opponents, human (and not) in “Kong: Skull Island.”
This film version of Kong is completely unique and has absolutely nothing to do with the 1933 original; the 1933 sequel “Son of Kong”; “King Kong vs. Godzilla” (more on that later); “King Kong Escapes”; the full reboot of “King Kong” in 1976 and itssequel “King Kong Lives” in 1986.
Then, of course, we have “King Kong,” Peter Jackson’s three-time Academy Award winner in 2005 for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing with Andy Serkis doing his masterful motion capture work.
So, setting every one of these King Kong movies to the side, now we are presented with “Kong: Skull Island.”
Taken from original characters and settings by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace, the story begins at the end of World War II with American ace fighter pilot Hank Marlow and his Japanese aerial opponent dueling in the clouds, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, only to crash land on this mysterious island, forever shrouded in clouds. They continue their confrontation on land until both are immediately aware that the world around them has gone horribly wrong.
Marlow becomes stranded on what is known as Skull Island and for the next 28 years is a man frozen in time — going through his 20s, 30s and 40s outside of the rest of the world, living with savage natives that call this island “home” — a place invisible to the outside world.
Fast forward to 1973 where we are introduced to Bill Randa (John Goodman) who puts together an expedition to Skull
Island, newly found by nascent NASA satellites, of geologists and astrophysics and a US Air Force Helicopter crew pulled directly from the Vietnam War (with help from the Nixon administration) to ostensibly find rare earth elements and anything else they can exploit from this island.
Along with a British SAS officer (Tom Hiddleston) and a beautiful Vietnam War photojournalist (Brie Larson), the dozen helicopter pilots brave the elements and punch their way through the dense fog banks surrounding Skull Island and into a world unlike anything previously seen.
According to the official synopsis, “If you can imagine what 65 million years of isolated evolution might have done to the dinosaurs, you will find it on Skull Island.”
Instead of just flying Randa and his crew in and out of Skull Island, they immediately come across Kong who wipes out every helicopter, stranding one and all on the last place on Earth you’d want to be.
Filmed on location in Vietnam, “Kong: Skull Island” really does have this “otherworldly” feel to it as if you meshed “Platoon” with “Apocalypse Now” and then slammed in the latest reboot of “Godzilla” all into one.
In the film’s backstory, it is revealed that the Americans have been searching for Kong and “his” monster ilk for years. Randa is in truth the head of Monarch, a super-secret US government agency that specializes in the hunt for massive unidentified terrestrial organisms. He just wants to survive on Skull Island long enough to send in the entire US Armed Forces to capture (or exterminate) every last creature on this island.
So different from all of the previous movie versions — I personally have an affinity for the 2005 version by Peter Jackson in which Kong is more “gorilla” and is smaller and more agile — but here director Jordon Vogt-Roberts (“Single Dads”) puts the emphasis on ferocious in his version of the 100 ft tall mountain of ape flesh.
Except for one gentle scene with Hiddleston and Lawson, this Kong is all business.
And you too will find Kong to be a refreshing CGI version on the screen. As modern technology continues to advance CGI special effects, Kong comes with a crystal clear, almost a pristine look to it — much in keeping with the originality of this lush tropical island, untouched and unspoiled by modern man.
Now regarding Godzilla. . . I’m sure you have been waiting with bated breath to know that Legendary Pictures, the Beijing-based film group, will be pitting Godzilla vs. Kong on Skull Island in May 2020 and yes, there is a direct tie in at the end of Skull Island to that eventual match-up.
Legendary plans for a “shared cinematic franchise around Monarch which will “bring together Godzilla, King Kong in an ecosystem of other
giant super-species, both classic and new.”
“Kong: Skull Island” is a worthy stand-alone action adventure all its own with comic book violence, helicopters falling out of the sky and a lot of running from danger and screaming by the lead actors. The “twist” of Randa wanting to bring Kong back to America is nothing new — Jack Black’s character did that in the 2005 version — and there are more dangerous creatures to be found this island to blow a poison dart at.
One final note, dear reader, if there was ever a movie to watch in IMAX format, it is “Kong: Skull Island.” Seeing a 100 ft. tall ape on a 50 ft. tall screen is worth each and every peso of your hard-earned livelihood.
Kong is back and he is still and forevermore the King!
Questions, comments or travel suggestions, write me at [email protected]