Hail to the Kong:
8 Things You Need to Know
By Mikhail Lecaros
In Kong: Skull Island, we have the latest star-studded attempt to bring cinema’s favorite giant gorilla back to the big screen. Read on to see if this flick is worth the excursion!
It’s Got a Lot to Live Up to
Since the release of King Kong in 1933, Hollywood has remade the parable of beauty killing the beast at least twice (first by The Towering Inferno’s John Guillermin in 1976, and then in 2005 by The Lord of the Rings’ Peter Jackson), with less-than-stellar results. In both cases, the remakes failed to grasp just what it was that made the original so compelling, focusing on spectacle rather than trying to tell a compelling story (well, at least the ’05 one did, through copious amounts of inconsistent CGI; the ’76 one just ended up being boring when they couldn’t get their giant robot to work).
It’s Not a Remake
Aside from the sequels to the 1933 original (Son of Kong, 1933) and the ’76 Remake (King Kong Lives), the only real standalone King Kong movie was Japanese-American co-production King Kong VS Godzilla (1962), which put cinema’s two favorite giant monsters against each other in a battle for the ages (spoiler alert: the gorilla won).
While the narrative basics of a team travelling to a mysterious isle remain intact in Skull Island, gone is the third act in New York, and nowhere here does Kong feel the need to climb the tallest building in the city (The Empire State Building in ‘33 and ‘05, the World Trade Center Towers in ‘76). Gone too, is the central plot device of the giant gorilla falling in love with a beautiful blonde – here, we have an adventure specifically designed to maximize screen time of monsters beating the living daylights out of each other.
The 1970’s Setting is Surprisingly Refreshing
In place of the traditional 1930s setting or transposing the story to the modern day, this Kong is set immediately following the 1969 announcement of the end of the Vietnam conflict. Amidst widespread anti-government sentiment (“It’s never going to get crazier than this,” says one character) back home, battle-hardened military man Packard (Samuel L. Jackson, The Avengers) and his men are assigned to accompany scientists played by John Goodman (The Big Lebowski) and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, TV’s 24: Legacy) to Skull Island before the Russians can plumb it for secrets.
The Cast is Overqualified
Chockfull of talent, the cast is above and beyond your average blockbuster: Aside from the aforementioned Jackson, Goodman, and Hawkins, Skull Island boasts Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers, War Horse) as a former SAS operative-turned-mercenary, Brie Larson (who won the Best Actress Oscar for 2015’s Room) as a pacifist photographer, Toby Kebel (Black Mirror’s “The Entire History of You”), Jing Tian (Police Story 2013, The Great Wall), and John C. Reilly (Stepbrothers) as a pilot stranded on the island since World War II.