Monday, May 22, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

The big ape with the soft heart is once again misunderstood in the latest King Kong chapter released earlier this year, when I was not in the mood for blockbusters. I overthought it, fretted, and put it off too long. But then one of my local multiplexes took mercy and brought it back for another week. (They also did me the favor of showing Colossal, speaking of monster movies, a decent specimen from last year with Anne Hathaway worth a look.) This King Kong story is set in 1973—it feels random, but soon enough is seen to suit the purposes of the screenplay, which among other things gives a shout-out to American military hubris and various corporate malfeasance. Samuel L. Jackson plays a disgruntled grunt who can't stand to lose. It clouds his judgment. Brie Larson (RoomThe Spectacular Now, Trainwreck) gets the Fay Wray part, updated as an award-winning photojournalist who doesn't scream. Tom Hiddleston adds class to the joint with his ripped buff. And we're back on Skull Island, where it all started and where the bugs are big and the aborigines holy. John C. Reilly plays a soldier stranded there since World War II. But never mind all that. There's one reason we're here, and yes, those battle scenes are pretty good. It's that motherfucking big ape we love. Director Jordan Vogt (lots of TV), along with a team of six screenwriters, paces the action well. As with Peter Jackson's remake 12 years ago the yuck factor can roam high. There's just no good way to squish a big bug. And the Apocalypse Now vibe never quite makes sense, but the ordnance pyrotechnics are impressive. Me, I'm more a fan of the main event, King Kong taking on all comers in no holds barred wrestling to the death. Opponents include Rodan and Mothra types. You know them. There's some of the workmanlike grace of Willis O'Brien's (and later Ray Herryhausen's) stop-motion animation in this CGI somehow, especially in the big fight scenes. The woman I bought my ticket from asked if I'd seen it before and told me to be sure to stick around for all of the credits. Do you understand the commitment that requires for a movie with this degree of special effects and also a reasonably extensive '60s music soundtrack? They went on forever. Then there was a cryptic preview for a sequel. This movie's done pretty well at the box office. It hasn't made its money back yet but my multiplex did bring it back for a week. And it's King Kong, in the era of the franchise. Expect a sequel. Equal parts Jurassic Park and Lost.

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