Is anybody actually a fan of King Kong? They have to exist, otherwise why would there be… is that right? 10 King Kong movies before this one? I’ll file that fact away for later. Anyway, when I first heard about this movie, I resigned myself to watching it, knowing it would have connections to future Godzilla movies and I’m a sucker for watching every movie in a franchise. So imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed this!
The film is set in 1973, right as America was exiting from the absolute clusterfuck that was the Vietnam War. This is relevant to the plot because a major player is Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Mr. Samuel L Jackson). He’s a man whose entire life revolves around fighting and military service, so the prospect of retreating leaves a very sour taste in his mouth. He agrees to have his men act as guards for an expedition to the newly discovered Skull Island, and very quickly he makes mortal enemies with Kong, the giant protector of the island. Packard swears a blood vendetta against Kong, and it eventually reaches the point where the surviving soldiers have to question whether they should keep following the commands of a superior who does not have their best interest in mind. At what point does a soldier stop and ask themselves, am I making things worse? Did I mention that this is all happening with the Vietnam War wrapping up in the background? Kind of a theme.
Comic book movies have ruined things for me. I can’t watch this and remember certain characters’ names, instead seeing them as their superhero personas. Nick Fury goes nuts while Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) are the rational adults in the room. John C Reilly wasn’t in a superhero movie, right? Wait, no, he was one of the Nova Corps members in Guardians of the Galaxy. John Goodman hasn’t been in one…? Speed Racer doesn’t count, so yeah, he’s in the clear and can be an actual character. Doesn’t matter that he was in The Emperor’s New Groove or The Big Lebowski, because such is the way my garbage brain works.
Kong himself was… fine. He was fine. He’s a big ape, he likes the pretty blonde lady, and he punches harder than the other monsters. The real focus in on the humans, with several of them actually coming across as believable characters! John C Reilly’s Hank Marlow–a WWII pilot whose been stuck on the island since that war–was funny in a not overly obnoxious way, although there is one scene where he threatens to stab a guy that comes out of nowhere and is never brought up again. The soldiers are fairly interchangeable, but they have this reoccurring… joke isn’t the right word, but sort of a meme they share. One of the soldiers had a son named Billy, and he would read the letters he was writing to the rest of his team. “Dear Billy” became a reference between them, often a joke they’d make before commenting on how bizarre their situation has become. It really humanized them, because of course friends (or brothers in arms) would have shared in-jokes. I could see why some viewers found the constant “dear Billy”s grating, but I rather liked it. The soldiers stood out because of it better than the generic nerds who had no character traits other than “nerd” and “survives so they can be in the post-credits scene.”
Ah, right, the post-credits scene. This is a shared cinematic universe, don’t you know, so we have to lay the groundwork beyond Kong: Skull Island using the same organization in Godzilla. Loki and Captain Marvel survive and are taken in by the Monarch nerds who explain that there are more
titans kaiju out there, referencing Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah. Hey, I recognize those monsters! And all of them are going to be in Godzilla: King of the Monsters? Fuck yeah!
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