MPAA Rating: PG-13
for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language
Runtime: 118 minutes
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson
Another King Kong movie! Well, this one is not like the 1933 version although it pays tribute to that classic. It’s been whipped into shape by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. He began making films in his Detroit home basement and gained fame on the MTV series Mash Up and Funny or Die. His comedy roots show up occasionally in the Kong movie to relieve some of the on-screen tension.
Set in the 1970s, a group of explorers have conned a Washington Senator (Richard Jenkins) into funding their expedition to a mysterious uncharted South Pacific island where prehistoric creatures may exist. After finding the island on satellite images, senior government official Bill Randa (John Goodman) of the Monarch program organizes an expedition force to explore the island. Randa has determined the island is the breeding place for new species.
Mounting a force large enough for a World War II invasion, Army Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), the military team leader, gathers up soldiers and enough helicopters and ammunition to turn the island into a sand pile. Packard’s solution to every crisis is to “kill it,” and he especially is determined to mow down every strange creature they see. Jackson shouts every line at the top of his lungs, be it a soliloquy or a command. He is, without a doubt, the worst actor in Hollywood.
The location of the island is the strange, but has beautiful scenery of some of Viet Nam’s hidden bays and jungles. The vegetation and waterways are stunningly beautiful through the lenses of the IMAX 3D cameras as filmed by cinematographer Larry Fong.
The helicopter squadron has a surprise waiting for them with Kong (not yet elevated to “King”), a 90-foot tall ball of not quite legendary Blackgama fur and muscles. He swats them out of the sky like mosquitoes. This is an excuse for the special effects boys to create lots of fire and crashes, shrieking metal grinding and ripping apart, and ear-shattering noise. Bleeding ears abound, and hearing specialists will be jumping for joy with all the business they will be getting from war torn audiences.
The recently-turned hunk of an actor Tom Hiddleston, plays an ex-British spy, and is given the task to lead the crew through the unknown jungles and quagmires. No challenges in the acting department for him, but he does look angry or excited once in a while. You can tell by his nostrils flaring like in an old silent movie.
Naturally, there has to be a beautiful girl in the movie, and she is Brie Larson, who plays anti-war photographer Mason Weaver. She tags along with the boys, hangs onto the side of the helicopter as needed, and slogs through the jungles and mud looking like she just got up from the make-up table. Larson won an Oscar last year, but this is a nothing role that requires no effort other than showing up on the set every day and standing in front of the cameras. However, when they do encounter Kong, she plays a latter day Fay Wray and pets the big lug as if he’s a kitten and turns him into mush. Aww , he’s just a pussycat after all.
Other than Kong (played by Toby Kebbell who also plays Jack Chapman), actor John C. Reilly is the best thing in the movie. He plays old World War II vet Hank Marlow who has been lost in the jungle for 28 years. He’s a little whacko, which gives him the chance to crack jokes and be goofy. It’s a wonderful supporting part, and he brightens the film every time he’s on screen.
The story doesn’t count, but the wonderful action scenes are some of the best ever filmed. Kong shows his superiority when the lizard-type monsters emerge from their caves and do royal battle with the big fuzzy one. Absolutely astonishing special effects are used, and the 3D cameras make you feel you are right in the picture.
The final battle scene between Kong and the “Big One” of the Skull Crawler monsters is magnificent. The last few minutes of the movie knocks your eyes out, and is worth the cost of the ticket.