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Kong: Skull Island

Just to refresh; The first half of Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” (2005) is one of my favorite 1930’s period action films of the 2000’s. I loved everything about that movie until the group from the ship “Venture” eventually capture Kong. Anything after that SHOULD have been a separate film. Period. Full stop. There is no damn reason that movie needed to be that damn long. Now another “Kong” remake came along this past weekend. It’s as if the producers, writers and director of this film paid attention to some of our criticism and set out to fix the legacy of “Kong” from the ground up.

This is a much tighter and succinct film that the 2005 version so you’re not crossing your legs trying not to pee since you finished drinking that 32-ounce soda before the start of the second half. “Kong: Skull Island” is exactly long enough; long enough for the audience to see the action and how (or if) our main characters survive and how (or if) they get off the island. You’ll want more, though, but you’re willing to wait for the next movie in this series to come along.

More to the point, this isn’t the world of any other “King Kong” movie, its more of a prequel to the 2014 “Godzilla” which was a damn good film with some obvious nods to current events such as the nuclear power plant disaster in Japan.

“Kong: Skull Island” is the usual fare for a movie of this kind, a group of people must go check out this location that they just learned about via some strange, clandestine program because it’s a brand new, undiscovered territory with something that might be extraordinary there. Then they must fight to leave and perhaps solve some mysteries on the way out. If they survive.

This time it’s John Goodman (“Roseanne,” “The Big Lebowski”) from “Monarch” – a clandestine super-secret group that got a hold of some satellite images from another super-clandestine group, and Goodman’s character “Bill Randa” implores a senator to allow his group to “piggy-back” their mission with the other groups expedition the island…

And since there’s a whole bunch of confusion in the region where this island was found – Not too far from Vietnam where American Troops are pulling out after the war has been abandoned by The United States (See “Nixon,” “Fall Of Saigon,”) – there is no better time to go exploring this region. And this might also be the last.

This is a great period film, but not taking place in our favorite era, the 1930’s or 1940’s – it’s The Seventies, just before Watergate and other secrets about the US Government are exposed. This movie feeds right into the conspiracy theory and paranormal lore that a lot of us get into… secret organizations, doing clandestine things about a forbidden discovery. It’s right up there with The Monolith on the moon!

Like most other “King Kong” movies, we meet a bunch of other characters who are both “the best there is” in their respective field – such as Tom Hiddleston as “James Conrad” the ‘famous’ tracker and survivalist, Samuel L. Jackson as “Preston Packard” the Army Air Calvary commander with a grudge, and Brie Larson as war photographer and eye candy for the men, “Mason Weaver.” We’re all given scenes that explains why they are the best for this line of work, and why they’re the craziest choices for the job. They all have something to prove or their price tags are just affordable enough for an expedition of this kind.

Let me interject, though. If someone was going to offer me money to go to an unexplored island where “amazing and miraculous things” await me, I highly doubt they could keep me away. I was, after all, voted “Most likely to stowaway on a strange ship to explore some exotic place before almost getting killed.” Have Fedora… Will Travel!

The plot gets a huge dose of adrenaline through a perfect example of exposition dialog through the intel briefing of all the military men and the private contractors the audience gets a lesson in the pseudo-science of “Kong,” “Skull Island,” and then the Godzilla and future monster movies to come in this series. “We” have an incomplete picture of the Earth, there are pockets in the crust and the mantel of this world where creatures like the dinosaurs never perished and could evolve more during the past couple of ages – and it’s up to “us” to go see what’s out there. Or down there… whatever.

They only have three days to do their research and then get to the pick-up spot at the North-East part of the island.

Once the crew braces the horrible, perpetual storm surrounding the island, it’s a non-stop roller coaster for these characters and us, we see all the helicopters destroyed. Almost everyone dies. And then things get worse.

What really set Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong apart from many other movies of its kind is the absolute brutality of the island and the countless other creatures beyond our imagination and it’s hard to imagine how anyone could survive its horrors. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts “Skull Island” is just as horrific but the sheer numbers of creatures aren’t as abundant. What Vogt-Roberts lacks in sheer numbers is made up for in quality of the horrific creatures and the suspense.

There aren’t so many horrible things on this “Skull Island,” the few things are that are horrible and terrifying “get” to you in other was, namely the creepy factor. The island gives the illusion of being safe for a while… and then! {Insert Jump Scare Here!}

As in most movies of this kind, the monster is a mere stand-in for something else. The monster represents our collective fears. In this film, “Kong” serves as a metaphor for the environment and the balance of power in the animal kingdom; if we allow this animal to go extinct then the more horrible ones will run amok… per standout performance by John C. Reilly as former Army Air Corps Pilot Hank Marlow who was marooned on “Skull Island” decades earlier.

“Kong: Skull Island” is a worthy film of anyone’s time and money but only if you’re into thought provoking SF-Action films. There are a lot of ethical questions in this movie, very like those questions asked in “Godzilla” from 2014 in regards to mankind’s inability to take science and ingenuity seriously enough to stop and think about the long-term implications, or think for the second about our unintended consequences. This is an awesome ride with some thought provoking moments.

The final word – be sure to stay for the clip that plays after the credits roll.