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Kong: Skull Island - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Kong: Skull Island
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B
Special Effects: A-

King Kong is one of the most enduring cinema monsters in history, revisited over and over: a sequel to the original seminal work in 1933 (Son of Kong); high profile remakes in both 1976 (using the World Trade Center's Twin Towers instead of the iconic Empire State Building) and 2005; and plenty of other films featuring the giant ape.

It's now been a mere 12 years since Peter Jackson's passion project, taking the setting back to the thirties again and bringing Kong to New York to scale the Empire State Building once again. It was a movie that was a tad bloated but was a solid entertainment; its special effects were plentiful but imperfect.

So why now, with Kong: Skull Island, which is not a strict remake but simply sticks the idea of a band of people exploring the world's last uncharted island? I'm not really sure. Jordan Vogt-Roberts likes to say in interviews that this one is not just different but "weird," in an apparent attempt at getting people to come see it. And it is that, to a degree. He makes a few deliberate choices, such as making King Kong himself a bipedal monster that stands a hundred feet tall -- hearkening back to the prehistoric-animal notions of the original film. This is different than, say, Peter Jackson's King Kong being deliberately and realistically simian.

In the end, though, Kong: Skull Island is derivative in pretty much every way. There's nothing new in the storytelling here, which seems to cross The Lost World: Jurassic Park with Apocalypse Now. In a subtly cheeky move, Samuel L. Jackson is cast as the revenge-seeking man bent on killing Kong, and at one point he even utters his same immortal line from the original Jurassic Park: "Hold onto your butts!"

None of this to say the movie isn't fun, mind you. I had a good time watching it. For an afternoon entertainment, it'll do. Perhaps most importantly, this one has more convincing special effects than any movie featuring King Kong to date. Nothing ever looks rushed to completion or not quite done, the way a lot of CGI effects tend to. I would even go so far as to say plenty of people might find it worth the premium price to see in 3D, although I am certain I wouldn't. In any case, this movie is packed with indelible imagery that's very much enhanced by convincing effects.

Is there much to say about the plot? It's set in the seventies, a choice that makes sense in light of the idea of satellites finding the last uncharted island on the planet -- something more believable in that era than present day. John Goodman plays the guy taking all these people on a mission to find and explore the island, and all of this, while making the first quarter of the film somewhat dull, very much mirrors the original story of explorers visiting a preserved prehistoric ecosystem populated with gigantic, monstrous animals.

In this version, Kong is the last of his kind, protecting the rest of the natives on the island from "skull crawlers" -- giant creatures from deep within the earth that look like lizard-snakes with only front legs. Inevitably, there is a huge fight between Kong and one of these other monsters. And this, of course, is the kind of sequence we've seen in movies over and over again. The only thing that sets this one apart, really, is that the effects are so well done.

There's a host of familiar faces, evidently grabbing a nice blockbuster paycheck: the tracker played by Tom Hiddleston; the photographer played by Brie Larson; the castaway World War II soldier who's been there for thirty years, played by John C. Reilly. (We see his character as a young man in an effectively attention-grabbing opening sequence.) There are plenty of others, and most of them prove to be expendable, notably in an exciting sequence involving Kong tearing a bunch of helicopters apart.

And that's what you come to this kind of movie to see, right? I can't say Kong: Skull Island is a disappointment. But I can't say it's particularly special either.

Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston have a bit of fun slumming it in KONG: SKULL ISLAND.

Overall: B
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