Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Corey Hawkins, John C. Reilly, and Rodrigo Obregon as Kong
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer. That’s all.)
Synopsis: A giant ape invites a group of soldiers and scientists to his island home for his birthday party but things go awry when it’s revealed that everyone thought someone else was bringing the banana cake.
[WARNING: MONKEY SPOILERS]
- For a giant monster picture the cast is phenomenal. Although it’s great that they can assemble such top-notch actors, sometimes that can be off-putting. Like Brie Larson just won an Oscar last year and now she’s in a giant ape movie (even though I personally judge monster movies to be above Oscars). And is John Goodman one of the most underrated actors of the past 20 years or what? He really is great in everything he’s asked to do and seems like a helluva nice guy to boot. The stories of he and Kong drinking after hours on the set of this film have become instant legends.
- While not perfect, the movie is the one thing it needs to be: fun. There aren’t really any moments that drag on too long and you won’t be looking at your watch waiting for the next monster to show up. It’s basically wall-to-wall monkey pleasure.
- For a director working on just his second feature (and the first one had a budget of $47) there are some really nice shots, particularly the money shot of Kong silhouetted against the sunset that’s used in 99.9% of the film’s advertising.
- I loved Kong’s design. It’s definitely more of a nod toward the “upright” original version of Kong and not as much of a giant gorilla like the Peter Jackson remake. Kong is really more of an ape monster than any species of ape. The other creature designs were nice as well, even though the Skullcrawlers looked a lot like the MUTOs from Godzilla and the Cloverfield monster and the Super 8 monster and the ice planet monster from Star Trek.
- And the below scene is one of the funniest and greatest things I’ve ever seen in cinematic history:
What doesn’t work:
- There isn’t a ton to nitpick here since you basically get what you pay for, but I didn’t really love it as much as I hoped. All the elements of a fun monster movie are there, but it needed a little something more to push it over the top. I think it could have used a stronger overall story. Basically it’s group goes to mystery island, runs afoul of monsters, must get away from mystery island. You don’t hate any of the characters, but you don’t love them either. The only one that’s really fleshed out is John C. Reilly’s crazy WWII castaway. But ultimately, none of the characters really matter. They’re basically interchangeable. Corey Hawkins and John Goodman could have been rolled into one guy and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Tom Hiddleston doesn’t really do much, and neither does Brie Larson. They’re all just kind of there because Kong can’t deliver dialogue. But it would be great if they did an entire monster movie from the monster’s point of view and none of the humans ever said anything.
Overall: Enjoyable ape monster action that delivers on its promise of enjoyable ape monster action, and buoyed by a first-rate cast, although not first-rate characters. Not the monster movie classic some may hope (I liked the 2014 Godzilla better) but nothing to be apeshamed of.
Score: 7.25 Kongfrontations (out of 10)