Jason’s Jottings

by Jason Strangis

“Kong: Skull Island” is a fun, relentless monster bash

King Kong seems to hold endless fascination.

Ever since the Great Ape’s roaring debut way back in 1933, Kong has captured the imagination of millions of moviegoers around the world. The gigantic gorilla has become hugely popular and has starred in a vast number of remakes, sequels, and monster battles.

The latest adventure, “Kong: Skull Island” hit movie theaters across the country on March 10 and should stay popular for a long time. How does it compare to other classic Kong movies and moments? Well, one thing is sure: “Skull Island” is highly entertaining from start to finish and is certain to keep audiences captivated and thrilled for over two hours.
This blockbuster is much more a fun monster bash instead of a “Beauty and the Beast” tale. An American military expedition discovers that prehistoric creatures and other weird beasts actually exist on an uncharted island in the South Pacific. The year is 1973 — the time of the Vietnam War, Nixon and the Watergate scandal. There are lots of pop culture references, a nostalgic music soundtrack, and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts really keeps the action moving until the first time we see the monsters. And what a moment of majesty it is when Army helicopters first spot King Kong on the island and head in for an attack. Kong is angry that his turf has been invaded and swats the helicopters, taking down many of the flying machines in his wrath.

At first it seems like this version of King Kong is scarier and more ferocious than previous incarnations but in time we see he fights only if provoked and often can be a gentle giant. This new Kong is one of the biggest of them all — a whopping 100 feet tall and still growing. Obviously, one of the reasons for the height increase is to set up a highly-anticipated showdown with the “Big G” himself in “King Kong vs. Godzilla” set for 2020.

But unlike director Gareth Edwards’ somewhat disappointing 2014 version of “Godzilla” where The Lizard King wasn’t featured much until the end, “Skull Island” focuses mainly on Kong for most of the movie. The Great Ape proves time and time again able to handle all challengers, including a giant octopus. Meanwhile, expedition members battle several creatures like a freaky 50-foot tall long-legged spider, flying bat-like beasts, and many other monstrosities.
The lost world of Skull Island is strangely beautiful to behold. Central location shootings took place in Oahu in Hawaii and Australia’s Gold Coast. Rich, green landscapes and towering scenic mountains fill the screen in this fantasy-adventure film.

As far as the cast, “Skull Island” boasts a strong group of actors led by Tom Hiddleston (best known as Loki in the Thor movies), John C. Reilly (who makes an impression as a long lost castaway), John Goodman (always a solid veteran performer), and Samuel L. Jackson in a villainous role that fans might find somewhat stunning.

Of course, there has to be a “blonde beauty” in any good Kong movie and this time that role goes to talented performer Brie Larson. The Oscar-winning actress (“Room”) is following in some big footsteps like Fay Wray, Jessica Lange, and Naomi Watts. While those actresses were part of a “Beauty and the Beast” storyline, Larson’s role is more of a tough-minded photographer/adventurer fighting for survival with a mostly-male crew. There are some surprisingly tender moments in “Skull Island,” although this movie doesn’t nearly carry the emotional impact of director Peter Jackson’s heartbreaking “King Kong” in 2005.

All things considered, though, “Skull Island” is a lot of fun, especially for fans of the giant monster genre. Kong is still King until he’s dethroned. And that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. But Kong might meet his match in a few years against Godzilla, a showdown that is setup by the Skull Island’s post movie credit scene. Stay tuned.