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EXTREMELY BELATED REVIEW OF KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Apocalypse Now style poster for Skull Island YEAR: 2017
Being a rabid fan of KING KONG, from the original 1933 Fay Wray adventure classic to the 1976 Jessica Lange action-packed modernized reboot, KONG: SKULL ISLAND throws the usual damsel in distress template out the window, replaced with a group of soldiers, their mission never quite explained, even by exposition bearer John Goodman, occurring right after Vietnam where Sam Jackson's character is still sore from losing, or as he puts it, abandoning the war...

Between the Thirties and Seventies, Toho films (along with Rankin/Bass) kept Kong alive as a protagonist adversary verses Godzilla and other monsters, and in KING KONG VS GODZILLA the giant ape battles an octopus that, as you can imagine, paying homage with today's technology, looks pretty cool despite having little to do with what SKULL ISLAND lacks completely: an actual plot...

Reilly took over for Michael Keaton
Intentional or otherwise, the new KONG is a hybrid of SOUTHERN COMFORT, in which a group of inept National Guardsman are hunted by dangerous locals, and APOCALYPSE NOW, for obvious Vietnam War reasons, and, as we'll explain later, where a spun-out Dennis Hooper warns the main characters, who just arrived at a dangerous location, "Watch out, those monkeys bite." Unlike the more politically-correct Jessica Lange/Jeff Bridges version, where the King is a vegetarian, like a real gorilla, and would never eat a human being, here he's somewhat of a cinematic monster once again, which is a good thing since in Peter Jackson's film he's basically a common gorilla that just happens to be gigantic...

 And there's a battle between Kong and one of many adversarial lizard creatures; all with no hind legs like the kind Bruce Cabot dodged in the original. The epic problem with this film, despite finally pulling off the immensity of The King's size and power better than any film beforehand, is there's absolutely no adventure involved concerning the terrific looking creature....

Hopper in APOC NOW
Although there is creatively edited direction concerning Vietnam era Huey Copters blasting classic rock tunes, suddenly being surprise-attacked by the iconic monstrosity. But the distance from the wide-open green grass location over to the walled-in area where John C. Reilly's rambling, scruffy Dennis Hopper-type... a World War II vet existing with a handful of natives... all seems in close proximity...

It's like watching KONG: THE PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER on a two-hour smackdown within a limited space on the island that not only lacks the spooky aura of its title, but seems the size of a neighborhood park. Plus, there are so many similar looking soldiers, it's difficult to keep score of the body count; because of the cardboard cutout would-be victims, it doesn't really matter who lives or dies.

SkullScore: **
Meanwhile, when one of the leads turns bad, it's too little/too late for an 11th hour human villain to matter during the bombastic climax. As for the lady scientist the King sort of falls for, just like he did in the three other films: she's about as unattainable to Kong as an actual point is to the overall story. If only die-hard KING KONG fans are disappointed by this rushed blockbuster, anyone else is better off watching, say, the first JURASSIC PARK for a much more energetic and genuinely dangerous ride. At least those characters, who we get to know inside/out, have a lot of places to run, and hide. Herein, for a movie named after an immense location, SKULL ISLAND (which was the original title) seems like watching a physically active game of Twister: lots of stomping feet with nowhere to go.
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