Warner Bros. 118 minutes PG-13 Reviewed March 10, 2017
This film is one fun, wild ride that takes you to a secret island. Once the main characters are in place, Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) has them spring into action fighting or being chased by enormous monsters from another age. But Kong is the center of it all. Is it scary and sometimes gory? Yes. Will these monsters scare the kids? Maybe. But despite all the carnage, it's well played with just the right amount of comic relief. Dan Gilroy (Night Crawler, Real Steel), Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly wrote a smart script.
Plus, the cinematography of the lush island and the camera's perspectives of the crew battling the huge Kong and other huge creatures is seamlessly well done. This big budget spectacular was shot in Viet Nam, Hawaii and Australia for a whopping $190 million.
It’s 1973 and you hear ‘70s psychedelic rock songs of that era. Bill Randa (John Goodman) is an exec with an official organization called Monarch. He wants to explore a secret island to see if it’s where “myth meets science.” Did ancient monsters live there? Are they still there? To get the ok to explore the island, he downplays the possibility of them still being alive.
Once he gets the green light, he puts together a team including British Viet Nam Vet James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), U.S. Army Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), leader of the Sky Devils Helicopter Squad and his men. Then Photojournalist and Peacenik, Mason Weaver, (Brie Larson) joins. She thinks there may be a story there worth exposing. Vogt-Roberts uses shooting black and white photos through her 1970’s era camera to great effect.
On approaching the ominous looking island surrounded in black clouds, they get a full dose of the huge Kong batting the choppers down like flies. The survivors now know what they have to contend with. When they plant bombs to explore what might be under the surface, they find more than they bargained for.
Hundreds of natives come running. The Makeup artists must’ve been at work for days painting little yellow lines on all of their interesting faces. And then, out of nowhere, comes Hank Marlow, a World War II Lieutenant from Chicago who has been on the island for 28 years. Marlow knows the natives and he knows that Kong protects them. He is their King. But his first questions to the team are about Chicago. Did the Cubs win the World Series yet? (Perfect for this film to come out right after the Cubs DID win their first World Series in 108 years!) That drew laughs and funny lines in the script about Chicago run throughout the film to give you a break from the team’s intense fight to survive. Reilly has fun with it and it adds a lot.
Marlow warns the team that by bombing through the surface, they disturb creatures called Skull crawlers who are far scarier than Kong. Not a good idea. Marlow takes them to see the giant bones in a burial ground that were Kong’s family. Those Skull Crawlers are a carnivorous lot and they go after the team, too.
Director Vogt-Roberts was reportedly influenced by the two-armed pit lizards he had seen in the 1933 King Kong film and used them as a template along with creatures he’s seen in monster movies. Besides the Skull Crawlers, hold onto your seat when a giant spider comes out of nowhere. Plus there are huge birds of prey that go after members of the team, and an enormous yak! This is a very dangerous place with enormous creatures.
In this incarnation of Kong, he is 100 feet tall and based on the 1933 film’s King Kong. His character was created with motion-capture by Terry Notary, who has worked with Andy Serkis, and by Toby Kebbell, who plays Jack Chapman, a member of the team.
They get split up, and Marlow wants to try to help the group get back together and off the island so he, too, can get back home. Hiddleston and Larson as Conrad and Weaver are separate, looking for one of their team still out there. It’s amazing how they both never look battle weary. She barely sweats, and her hair always looks good with little dirt anywhere on her face or clothes. Hiddleston looks like he just stepped out of a GQ fashion layout. Not very realistic. But it doesn’t matter.
Samuel L. Jackson is cantankorous as ever, questioning everybody and everything. But he keeps coming up with more weapons for his soldiers. Kong brought down their helicopters and everybody scattered. But they seem to always have guns, flame throwers, bombs, flares, and just about anything they need. It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s still fun to see them blow up monsters left and right. They do lose a few team members along the way.
When Kong gets hurt trying to protect the natives and the team, Photojournalist Weaver takes pity on the big beast and they bond. It’s a tender scene. He’s so big and she’s so little. But monsters come back after Kong and the team and the girl gets in trouble.
Will Kong try to save her? Who will survive? Will they ever get home? There’s never a dull moment in this film. The 2 hours go by fast. It’s well directed by Vogt-Roberts, well scripted and shot. Kong is back and will fight again. Stay till the very end of the credits for a tease for what up next. It’s sure to be another Monsters’ Ball!