One Big Monkey: “Kong: Skull Island” Is

So my daughter and I are fans of the original, classic King Kong (1933), and have seen the other remakes, with the most recent Peter Jackson version being the least favorite, while the Jessica Lange/Jeff Bridges version of 1976 being pretty good, but still a pale imitation of the original. Then along comes Skull Island and you can tell the filmmakers watched all the previous versions and decided, “We need to make Kong bigger.”

That they did. He’s so big he couldn’t climb the Empire State Building, because it would only take a few steps. (They don’t end up in New York City anyway, in defiance of Kong protocol.) So you might ask: Is it good? Not really, but it’s lively. Is it better than the original? No, but it is a bit of movie fun. Mainly it’s a money-soaked entry in the hundred-million-dollar Action/Adventure genre, in which there is no real thought and/or plausibility, but things look really cool. Kong fights the Skullcrawlers, big lizard things, and when I say big, I mean Really Big. Like how does Kong even eat? He would need half a jungle a week just to get his daily caloric intake. Brie Larson plays the love interest, supposedly a feminist version, in that she’s spunky and doesn’t faint or cower like Fay Wray and Jessica Lange, but then again, her role isn’t all that important. She was great in Room (2015), but now she appears to be making one comic book super hero embarrassment after another (upcoming movies include Captain Marvel and Avengers), and raking in millions, no doubt. Tom Hiddleston is her hunky man, and he mainly preens and looks mildly annoyed as Kong or the Skullcrawlers kill off his companions. The star of the show is actually John C. Reilly, who is always good, and who will go down in history as the unlikely star of Walk Hard (2007), one of the funniest music-satires ever made. He pretty much gets all the funny lines and mugs for the camera with real flair and wit.

About williamjcobb

William J. Cobb is a novelist, essayist, and short fiction writer whose work has been published in The New Yorker, The Mississippi Review, The Antioch Review, and many others. He’s the author of two novels—The Fire Eaters (W.W. Norton 1994) and Goodnight, Texas (Unbridled 2006)—and a book of stories, The White Tattoo (Ohio State UP 2002). He has reviewed books for the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times. He lives in Pennsylvania and Colorado. He may be contacted at wjcobb@gmail.com.
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