“Kong” a 328-Foot Good Guy
By Skip Sheffield
“Kong” has a lot in common with the original black-and-white “King Kong” from 1933. It has the mysterious island. It has the intrepid, somewhat clueless explorers and bone-headed soldiers who think bombs and bullets are a solution. It has the giant ape called Kong, who develops a crush on a pretty girl.
Since this is 2021, with CGI in full bloom, “Kong” has a lot more visually. You could call it monsters a-poppin’.
The story, written by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein, begins with a prologue set in 1944 on a mysterious South Pacific Island Two planes crash land; one American and one Japanese. The pilots survive and immediately begin fighting. The fight is cut short by a giant ape’s paw. Kong doesn’t like fighting on his island.
The years fast-forward to 1973. It is a time of protest against the Vietnam War. Scientists Bill Randa (John Goodman), Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) and San (Tian Jing) convince the military to authorize an expedition to an uncharted South Pacific island which is perpetually encircled by clouds and violent storms. Many ships and planes have gone missing in the vicinity of the island.
The mission is led by a military escort, Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and a professional tracker, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). Along for the ride is a skittish bureaucrat, Victor Nieves (John Ortiz) and a professional photographer, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson, in the requisite Fay Wray pretty girl role).
The new Kong is the largest yet, standing 328-foot tall. He is the most powerful too, which comes in handy on Skull Island, which is inhabited by all manner of slavering, razor-toothed beasties, as well as Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), an Army flyer who has been stranded on the island since 1944. Reilly’s cheerful demeanor contrasts comically with Jackson’s increasingly mad Colonel, bent on destroying Kong. No one does mad better than Jackson.
Ah, monsters are always misunderstood. Kong is really the good guy, protecting the island’s inhabitants against the CGI beasties. And of course there is his unrequited love for Mason Weaver, whose life he saves. Academy Award-winner Brie Larson is no shrinking damsel-in-distress. She is tough and she is sexy, and she is not afraid of a 328-foot ape.
Like the 1976 King Kong revival, “Kong” was shot on Hawaii amidst its rugged, stunning scenery. Like all Kongs before it, this beauty and beast fable doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it is action-packed and eye-popping fun. Maybe that is enough.