Kong Skull Island movie director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Kong Skull Island movie cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, Brie Larson, John C Reilley, John Goodman
Kong Skull Island movie rating: 2
Kong: Skull Island is a lot of things. It is a reboot of the old King Kong franchise, and also the second film in a new series that will eventually feature the giant ape with Godzilla; it wants to be Apocalypse Now, and harks back to Heart of Darkness (there is a Conrad here, and a Marlow, while a Colonel is “losing his mind”); it is about King Kong, but also about many other such beings; and it is anti-war, and revels in war imagery.
Confused? Well, the film certainly is as it moves on two parallel tracks towards an end screaming from afar, leaving in its wake a ravaged island, and a bewildered native tribe that is painted, literally, as being so content that they don’t even need to converse, though they do move around gazing lovingly at the Westerners in their midst.
The West finds itself in this wild East courtesy a curious scientist who suspects that mysterious creatures and happenings reside in the secret Skull Island in South Pacific. The year is 1973, and disappointed American troopers pulled abruptly from Vietnam are deployed with the team of this scientist, Randa (John Goodman). The soldiers are under the command of Colonel Packard (Samuel L Jackson), and they ask, even if timidly, why they are being told to exchange one jungle for another.
The drift the film is taking is further confirmed when the team recruits an ex-British special forces guy as a professional tracker to take them through the Skull Island. Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) is found wasted in a pool joint in Saigon, and is ready to lead the group to what he predicts is certain death for the right amount of money.
The third outsider is the necessary woman of the King Kong story, who in this film is a photojournalist who has just now made it to the cover of Life magazine. When someone comments on Weaver (Brie Larson) being a war photographer though, she immediately corrects: “an anti-war photographer”. Whatever that is.
At least she seems to be serious about her craft, intent on shooting photos even, literally, in the jaws of death. Of death, there is aplenty, as the Skull Island doesn’t have just the giant ape but many other ancient species, which are set astir by the ‘seismic charges’ dropped by the US Army and company as part of the mission. Bombs of the sort should be a bad idea in any jungle, but no one is asking too many questions.
When the Kong replies in kind, smashing, stomping, crushing several choppers and many of his men, Packard looks deep into his eyes and promises revenge. At one point, Packard in all seriousness suggests that he alone is enough to take care of all the beasts on Skull Island: “I am the cavalry”.
Separated from Packard’s group, Conrad, Weaver and others meet a soldier who had crashlanded here during World War II, Marlow (John C Reilley). Marlow, who has been on the island for 28 years, tells them about the tribes, the Kong and the rest of the island’s history, bringing upon a change of heart.
There are many smart lines in the film, including dubbing the secret species here ‘massive unidentified territorial organisms (sounding like other such grand missions of America)’, about ‘no one really coming out of a war’, and that ‘sometimes there ain’t no enemy till you go looking for one’. However, these don’t come out of any grand conviction about war, peace, or the real enemies in a man vs animal battle.
You are reminded of another line, at another time. Riding into Skull Island, Packard talks about the legend of Icarus. He talks about the father of that boy who gave him wings made of wax, causing his death when he grew too ambitious and flew too close to the sun. “But the US Army,” he adds, “is not an irresponsible father”.