The new Kong Skull Island movie is a combination of Apocalypse Now and Moby Dick, with a fantastic 1960’s & 1970’s soundtrack and wild action scenes. It is far better than any of the modern remakes of the classic 1933 King Kong and even has has some improvements.
For one thing, the female lead is a war correspondent/photo-journalist instead of a “damsel in distress”. In all other King Kong movies, including the 1933 original, the female lead does nothing but look beautiful and scream constantly. In Kong Skull Island Mason Weaver (played by Brie Larson) never screams. She is an integral part of the action scenes, rather than being relegated to just watching the men do the action.
In fact, there is no damsel in distress in the movie. Tian Jing plays San, a shy scientist on the expedition, who ends up being excellent in combat when the time comes to fight.
Samuel L. Jackson is Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard but he really plays the role of Captain Ahab. Kong Skull Island takes place just at the end of the Vietnam war, and Packard is filled with rage that all the sacrifices he and his men have made have been for nothing. When he gets a chance to lead a military escort to Skull Island, he lets the full force of his anger out on the wild and innocent King Kong.
In Moby Dick, written in 1851, Herman Melville understood this kind of rage when he described Captain Ahab by saying:
“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down.”
Kong Skull Island also has a very Apocalypse Now vibe to it. There are helicopter assaults over a jungle, while rock music blasts from the choppers. The solders eagerly follow into battle a leader that, in their hearts, they know to be insane.
One of the best characters in Kong Skull Island is Lieutenant Hank Marlow, perfectly played by John C. Reilly. Marlow was a World War II pilot who was shot down on Skull Island and has been living there for over 30 years. Marlow lives peacefully with the natives, and has come to accept the power and beauty of Kong and the island.
Marlow’s main goal in life is to find a way to get back to his true love – the woman he married in Chicago just before he shipped off to war. When this new expedition arrives on the island Marlow realizes he might be able to finally get home. However, first he has to guide the expedition and keep them all from getting killed. Even though Marlow has seen the same violence of war that Packard has, Marlow’s motivating force in life is love rather than hate.
Kong Skull Island is a fun movie that can be watched on many levels. Teenagers will love the action, while adults will understand that the film also has some deeper meaning as well. Be warned that it may be a little too intense for small kids. Along with the action scenes comes a huge body count.
- We rate Kong Skull Island Four Stars ****
- See our review of the 1934 Son Of Kong.
- For one man’s true story of his time in Vietnam read Vietnam Diary.
- See all our movie reviews