Everyone remembers the original King Kong (1933). The special effects at the time were pretty impressive. It’s a classic.
There was a remake done in 1976 which was directed by John Guillerman (The Towering Inferno, Shaft In Africa) and starred Jeff Bridges and in her film debut, Jessica Lange as the object of Kong’s affections.
The special effects were lousy yet still one the Oscar that year which it shared with Logan’s Run. It followed the same story as the original pretty much with the climactic showdown on top of the Empire State Building. The film received mixed reviews and Jessica Lange didn’t appear in another film until her small part in All That Jazz (1979). Her career picked up again when she starred with Jack Nicholson in Bob Rafaelson’s remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice in 1981. There was actually a sequel made in 1986, also directed by Guillerman called King Kong Lives. It was preposterous.
In 2005, fresh off his incredible success with The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson made his version of King Kong. The film was long but it was ambitious and epic. It was the same story as the original but fleshed out a bit more and using the modern technology to create incredible visuals.
The amazing Andy Serkis did the acting beneath the ape affects through innovative motion capture technology. A good cast, good script and great action made this a fun film.
The new King film, however, is not as fun. It is an entirely new story and plays more like a fifth sequel to Jurassic Park. The action takes place in the early 70s, where US government official, Bill Randa (John Goodman) sanctions an expedition, led by British captain James Conrad, played by Tom Hiddleston, to investigate Skull Island with the support of a military escort. The military escort, the Sky Devils, a Vietnam War helicopter squadron is led by Lt. Colonel Preston Packard played by Samuel L. Jackson. Packard is war weary and disillusioned from war and so when his squadron is welcomed harshly by a giant ape he is not having it. The expedition gets separated.
Conrad, accompanied by lovely photojournalist and pacifist, Mason Weaver (Brie Larsen), Randa and a few others fall in with Hank Marlow (John C. Reilley), a WWII soldier who has been marooned on the island since 1944. He guides them to a village where they are welcomed by the indigenous people of the island. They explain to our heroes that Kong protects them from the other creatures that inhabit the island, notably these some underground lizards called ‘Skullcrawlers’ and for that they worship him like a god. Marlowe agrees to go with them to regroup with Packard and what remains from his squadron and together they go in search of survivors from the initial Kong attack.
Suffice it to say, Packard turns out to be a crazy military nut who leads them into trouble with Skullcrawlers, deadly flying critters and Kong himself, who of course, takes a liking to Miss Larsen. The action is fine, the performances are fine, the effects are fine but I was under whelmed. I just didn’t care about any of these people or for Kong. It was just an empty action film filled with well known actors and good special effects.
The one exception is John C. Reilley. He’s the best thing about this film. He is wonderful and you do care about him. He’s the emotional center of the film and he also provides the comedy relief. He’s great in this.
The film was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts whose only previous film, The Kings Of Summer, a coming of age story that played the festival circuit in 2013 and did well at Sundance. OK. The natural next step is, of course, a big action, big budgeted King Kong remake!
Am I being too hard on it? Maybe. It’s a good popcorn film to catch on Netflix or when it comes to cable.