We have seen the awesome yet endearing sight of him in charming stop action animation atop the Empire State building when he swatted at our Great Depression blues. We have seen him in 1976 on the World Trade center, during the Carter presidency. He is a mighty symbol of the underdog and misunderstood Nature.
I am speaking of Kong, the king of all monsters who has captured our collective heart.
The supersize simian is back again in “Kong: Skull Island” by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. This version is lively colorful and entertaining, chock full of surprising creatures and historical references.
In 1973, Government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) knows there is a place called Skull Island with untapped resources. He persuades Sen. Willis (Richard Jenkins) to reluctantly fund an expedition.
Along for the trek is tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) the unsympathetic Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) Mason, a photo-journalist (Brie Larson) and a smattering of soldiers.
Just travelling to the island is a nightmare when the crew encounters a malevolent storm. But when the destination arrives, it is Paradise.
But there is one problem: Lieutenant Packard drops some bombs and our favorite antihero ape is not happy. Kong makes short work of the heliocopters and becomes the antiwar voice of the film.
Set in the Vietnam Era, the story has a great many details with a real sense of people waiting for America to get worse. Some of the men hope to actually make it to Key West. The first segment of the film bears something of an Oliver Stone war drama.
The soundtrack covers everything from Jefferson Airplane to The Stooges with songs that are perfectly of the period. Thankfully, this isn’t just an endless parade of monsters. As the story unfolds, King Kong has a heart, fighting a huge lizard and keeping watch over the indigenous people.
The story pays solid tribute to the 1933 original by depicting Brie Larson as a Fay Wray, safe if overwhelmed and insulated from harm in Kong’s black velvet hand.
While nothing is really new here, the action is rapidly paced with much apprehension, particularly in the komodo dragon scene which delivers a genuine feeling of the lost Saturday Matinee.
John C. Reilly appears as a survivor from WWIl in a madcap role, a preservationist of sorts and the only one who has common sense.
Yes, humans are hell. Thank goodness for Kong, a warning to bipeds all and just maybe, the only gargantuan Yippee in cinema history.
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