Kong: Skull Island

Co-writer Max Borenstein also co-wrote the 2014 Godzilla remake, and (according to IMDb) is slated to be involved with the 2019 movie Godzilla: King of Monsters and the 2020 film Godzilla vs Kong. That makes sense because Kong: Skull Island feels much more like a Godzilla movie than one written for King Kong.

Bill Randa (played by John Goodman) is an explorer with a crackpot theory that the earth is hollow and inhabited by gigantic creatures. But so far, every attempt to find them has been futile, so he’s on the thinnest of ice with Senator Willis (Richard Jenkins). Nevertheless, Randa convinces Willis to give him a military escort to check out a newly-discovered Pacific island (out of fear that the Russians might get there first). The United States is pulling out of Vietnam, but Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) volunteers his squad for one last mission, and Randa hires British soldier James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to serve as a tracker. And when talented anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) learns of the mission, she’s intent to come as well.

Everyone except Randa thinks that the mission is just to map the new island (which is constantly enshrouded with storms) and study its geography. But when their squadron of military helicopters arrive and start dropping seismic charges (purportedly to help study the island’s geological makeup), a gigantic ape appears and starts swatting them out of the sky. Soon, they’re all down and scattered across the island. While Packard and his soldiers are intent on killing the monster, Conrad and Weaver run into Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a man who’s been stranded on the island since his plane went down in World War II, and he tells them that the ape, named Kong, is really a good guy who keeps the really bad creatures at bay.

All the film’s monster-on-monster and monster-as-defender themes really make it feel like the movie was written for Godzilla rather than King Kong. It also evokes thoughts of Jurassic Park (at one point, Samuel L. Jackson even proclaims, “Hold onto your butts!”, albeit without a cigarette dangling from his lips) and occasionally Congo. And I recently watched Josef von Sternberg’s Anatahan (a rather disappointing, slowly-paced film that deals with sailors stranded on an island, who encounter a couple that’s been living there for years), so that came to mind, too. But you know what it doesn’t remind me of at all? A King Kong movie.

Kong: Skull Island is a very, very dumb movie. I mean, I can go along with the premise that there are giant monsters lurking beneath the earth’s surface, and that the only thing keeping them from taking over the earth is a giant ape who lives on the secret island that serves as the passage between the two worlds. But it’s tougher to accept that combat helicopter pilots would let themselves get within arm’s reach of a giant ape who’s trying to swat them down. And that’s just the start. I’m not saying that it’s not entertaining at times, but boy is it dumb.