Kong Skull Island Still King


image courtesy of Google images

Luke Adelhoch, Staff Writer

In recent years, Hollywood has seemed to have developed an unhealthy fascination with direct remakes and reboots of old classics. I am pleased to say that Kong: Skull Island is not yet another one of these copy-pasted, unoriginal slogs that plague the industry. With confidence, I can say that Kong: Skull Island manages to balance the spirit of the original King Kong with homages to other classic films such as Apocalypse Now and the great technological advances we have made since the original film was released.
The first question anyone should have about a King Kong film is how the eponymous ape himself is portrayed. One advantage Kong has that many other monsters do not is his “human” element. He is not intentionally or inherently destructive, just an animal who defends his home and is forced into an unfamiliar environment. Skull Island is set in Kong’s younger years, long before the famous events of the traditional story. This means he is entirely focused on defending his home and staying alive, the things all wild animals do naturally. However, the encroachments of the military-backed research team on his island drive him into a protective rampage. Despite how many people he kills, one can clearly still see him for the animal he is- the only reason he attacks is because his home is under attack. This aspect of his character is greatly showcased by various scenes in which he does other things all animals do, such as drink from and clean himself in a lake, defend himself from other predators, and search for food. Plus, he is still the good-hearted but destructive creature we all know and love. He protects the native tribe of the island from other monsters and does not attack outsiders unless provoked. So in short, Kong is portrayed very faithfully: a wild animal that is capable of both kindness and destruction with his hand forced towards destruction by intrusions into his home.
But Skull Island is home to many other monsters as well. Are they interesting? Do they inspire the imaginations, wonder, or fears of the audience? While most of them do not play major roles (The exception being the reptilian Skullcrawlers featured in the trailers), they do have very creative designs. While most Kong movies are satisfied with simple giant insects and dinosaurs, Skull Island features various interesting monsters such as a towering spider whose legs imitate bamboo to impale prey that walks below it. There are also less dangerous animals, such as a massive beetle that imitates a fallen log. It is completely harmless, but also just an interestingly designed creature. Plus, the villainous Skullcrawlers are giant snake-lizards with bone-like heads. I think that speaks for itself. As a fan of fantasy stories and creatures myself, such creatures are always a nice way to get the imagination working and certainly an enjoyable part of any monster movie.
So how do the humans hold up? Honestly, they were alright. My personal favorites include Samuel L. Jackson as the vengeful Lieutenant-Colonel Packard, a soldier from the Vietnam War hired by scientists as an escort on the dangerous islandy His character reminds many of the character of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, which is most likely intentional as can be seen by the poster’s homage to said film. There is also John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow, a stranded soldier from World War II who has been stranded on the island for many years. The other humans are pleasant enough characters, but are obviously not the reason people pay for their tickets. While I enjoyed Peter Jackson’s 2005 rendition of the story, I do confess he spent too much time on the human cast. This version understands that the main part of the movie should lie with Kong himself and the various monsters of the island. And either way, the human characters were by no means bad. Just not the focus of the movie, and to me that’s okay.
So is Skull Island worth a watch? As far as monster movies go, it’s certainly an enjoyable one. It isn’t deep or heavy in plot, but it’s earnest in that and does not pretend to be anything more than it is: a monster B-movie with exciting action, cool monsters, and tons of fun to be had.