Peter Jackson’s King Kong was an unabashed love letter to both, the original as well as the genre from which the film was born. While undoubtedly a good film, it never rose above the legacy of the original and instead lay in the murky depths of forgettable attempts at revived franchises—a problem that continues plaguing much of Hollywood’s stubborn attempts. Thankfully, Kong: Skull Island takes a sharp bend away from being a dedicated remake and simply keeping what works.
While I’ve enjoyed all three preceding King Kong movies (gonna ignore King Kong Lives) the final act in which Kong is brought to Manhattan has always been a bit of an issue with me. In the original, it was a fine manner of conclusion given the general “monster movie” tone of the film, but with the 1976 and 2005 remakes, it almost feels like it’s there simply ‘cause it was iconic to have him up on a tall building with a blonde in his fist.
Kong, however, is more concerned with the roots of the mythic creature and chooses to explore Skull Island with the eye of an iconic location with uncovered horrors and mysteries as opposed to just as a premise to explain the gigantic size of the character.
The problem lies in the human characters. While John Goodman’s supposed researcher is a fine catalyst, and Brie Larson’s intrepid anti-war photojournalist is a strong contender for a protagonist, just about all the other human characters seem unnecessary.
Tom Hiddleston’s rough and cynical weathered man-of-the-elements routine feels forced and out of place, like drinking tea from a crushed beer can. The character should have either been re-written to suit the aesthetic of Hiddleston’s easy charm or a more Tom Hardy-like actor should have been considered.
Nevertheless, Hiddleston’s role doesn’t stick out as sorely as Sam L. Jackson incredibly tired trope of a military officer who’s just an all-rounded asshole. Purely on set for the sake of having a human antagonist, his performance and function is forgotten the instant the character disappears from screen. While his posse of soldiers do service some form of comic relief, their true purpose in life is fodder for the camera—a fitting echo of their Vietnam war roots.
A salvaging performance is provided by John C. Reilly who not only delivers the much needed levity that he is known for, but also makes it clear that Kong was not about to make the same mistake that the recent nuclear-lizard driven monster movie made: taking itself too seriously.
And in the vein of just about every movie since Sam L. Jackson (in a role that wasn’t entirely rubbish) slunk about in the shadows of Tony Stark’s sea view home, Kong delivers a post-credit scene that, arguably, makes this movie far more interesting, and actually makes that nuclear-lizard movie I mentioned worth watching.
Kong is out now in all theatres.