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Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island (***)

PG-13

As most regular readers of my reviews and movie writings can attest, I have a long and varied history with King Kong. While most of my colleagues/contemporaries who came of age during the same period as I were turned on to the power of cinema through exposure to the original Star Wars in the summer of 1977, I had a different experience. The film that opened my senses and fired my lifelong passion for the movies was released nearly a half year before that iconic film. It was the 1976 remake of King Kong, produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by the British filmmaker John Guillerman, that so enthralled me as a child. Its power was such that years later I was lucky enough to develop a friendship that lasts to this day with the director’s widow and even attended the late director’s memorial service in an effort to pay my respect to his achievement and its sizeable influence in my life.

The critical merits of Guillerman’s take on the story of Kong have been widely debated, with most critics holding it in pretty low regard. Guillerman’s 1986 sequel, King Kong Lives, filmed in North Carolina’s very own Wimington was even worse and it’s a film that even I can’t rise to defend, as much as I’d like to do so. The only other Kong film that’s seen the light of day since the two Guillerman directed films has been Peter Jackson’s overlong but enjoyable remake from 2005, a film that works pretty well in spite of its flaws.

And now we have Kong: Skull Island, a film that can stand completely on its own terms in regards to the other films in the Kong universe and a pretty good one at that.

Hiddleston & Larson in Kong: Skull Island

It’s being billed as a prequel but it’s also clear that since Kong is 100 feet tall in the film and the studio behind this latest Kong also own the rights to Godzilla, it’s a prelude to an eventual match between the iconic monsters. Don’t believe me? Stay for the post credits sequence and all doubt will be erased.

The film takes place in 1973 during the oil embargo and the low points of the Nixon presidency. As in other Kong films, an expedition to the unchartered island of Skull Island is being lead by the curious, here represented by John Goodman. The reasons for heading there are vague at first but it becomes clear that legendary stories about a giant ape have been circulating for years. With a military escort led by Samuel L. Jackson, the team, which also includes Tom Hiddleston and Oscar winner Brie Larson, set out for points unknown. It isn’t long before Kong makes his presence known and the would be explorers are running for their lives and not just from the big ape but also from the abundance of gigantic creatures running amok on the island.

Story wise, Kong: Skull Island doesn’t really serve up anything new or earth shattering but the creature effects are a pretty impressive show. Kong makes his first appearance five minutes in and pretty much shows up for regular intervals for the rest of the film. Unlike the 2014 Godzilla wherein the title creature was hardly seen you certainly get your fill of Kong. Add to that the film’s great sense of humor and you what you have is a perfect popcorn picture and a smashing good time at the movies.

Kong: Skull Island opens Friday, March 10, around the country but the Carmike web site doesn’t show Friday’s movies as of press time.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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