Verdict: This is a fun film, plain and simple. Don’t think about it too much, just enjoy the ride. Wait for it to hit the cheap seats or go on a Tuesday.
Synopsis: “A secret government organization mounts an expedition to Skull Island, an uncharted territory in the Pacific. Led by an explorer (John Goodman) and a lieutenant colonel (Samuel L. Jackson), the group recruit a disillusioned soldier (Tom Hiddleston) and a photojournalist (Brie Larson) to investigate the island’s peculiar seismic activity. But once there, they discover that Skull Island is home to a gigantic ape called King Kong, and find themselves caught up in an ongoing war between the beast and the area’s indigenous predators.” –Rovi
The Good: It’s everything a reboot should be, and it never once takes itself too seriously.
You know how you watch some monster movies, and you know right away that it’s about something? Like the 2014 Godzilla, or more significantly the 2016 Shin Godzilla, and you can watch it and know instantly that it’s not really about a monster. They’re about the danger of nuclear power, or maybe American unilateralism. Something deeper than the monster itself.
Kong isn’t that. It’s about a big monkey (calm down science nerds) who lives on an island, and also John C. Reilly is there. Like, maybe there’s something about Samuel L. Jackson’s military crew, and how Kong represents the destruction of war when sought, or that enemies are only made and not found which is a critique of Vietnam…but probably not.
And I don’t mean that as comment on its writing; the focus just isn’t on meaning something. It’s on showing you a freaking huge King Kong, and how Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Reilly, and Goodman are going to survive him. And also how Samuel L. Jackson is the villainous jerk. It never goes beyond this. And that’s a great thing.
It lets the audience just sit back and joy and the incredible visuals, the fascinating creature design, and probably one of the most gorgeous action scenes of the 21st century, in which Tom Hiddleston fights pterodactyls with a katana in a cloud of colorful smoke while wearing a gas mask. Trust me, Kong is almost worth seeing just for this.
That’s about all there is to say. Kong is terrifying, the acting is just fine, and it never slows down.
The Bad: The flip side of all that good
It’s not a great movie. It’s just a perfectly fine, fun one. There is a severe need for a suspension of disbelief in order to get through the movie. There’s larger structural problems like how the hell the actual plot comes together, and with so many characters there is not a lot of time spent getting to know any of them enough to care. The movie just asks you to accept they are the protagonists and get with the program.
Then there’s little silly things that distract from a movie, like “why does a gorilla the size of a skyscraper sometimes make noise when he walks and other times he’s silent?” or “if everything on this island is so damn big then how are these things not always bumping into each other?”
The Ugly: It’s well past time to stop having “tribal” peoples depicted in Kong movies.
I sort of get why Peter Jackson’s King Kong had its tribal people: they had to show why Naomi Watts was going to get sacrificed. But this movie completely does away with the Beauty and the Beast storyline. Brie Larson is just there to chill and be a photographer. So then why, why, does it still have what has to be a very problematic depiction of a fake-but-based-on-real-peoples tribe? Who literally don’t speak. Not one word. John C. Reilly understands them somehow, so he communicates with this silent people who are there for Brie Larson to take pictures of. It’s one of the strangest parts of the film, and should’ve been axed.