Film: Kong: Skull Island
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman,
John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Jin Tiang, Corey Hawkins
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
The monster ape is back! Some, if not all of you, must have seen some, if not all of his avatars, starting from the 1933 original to the 1976 and 2005 reboots. Jordan Vogt-Roberts adrenaline -charged version will be enjoyed by those who loved Jurassic Park, Alien and Apocalypse Now which was adapted from Joseph Conrad’s terrifying classic, Heart of Darkness. And just to make you sure you get it (the literary connection that is) an important character (played by Tom Hiddleston)
is named after the Polish sailor who lived for a while in the beautiful structure that now houses the Maharashtra State police HQ at Apollo Bunder.
Mind you, Conrad’s Bombay sojourn was before he would settle in England and eventually, win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising sets the tone for this franchise-friendly narrative (penned by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly) which follows a motley crew into the interiors of a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. The year is 1973 anno domini when the Viet Nam war has divided Americans over Uncle Sam’s intervention in Southeast Asia where the Viet Cong squirreled themselves inside underground labyrinths to win the war against Western “imperialism”.
Our titular ape seems to be less cerebral than Godzilla, the mutant “hero” of Gareth Edwards 2014 epic. Even so, Kong reminds us that life is not all about us; where Godzilla challenged the (human) belief in a hierarchical chain of being, Vogt-Roberts’ film suggests that Nature is supreme. After all, to claim any kind of superiority is morally indefensible, though this has never stopped the self-serving and plainly delusional from claiming just that.
Is Bill Randa (John Goodman) of the Monarch organisation (last seen in Godzilla) delusional in his belief of a hollow-Earth populated by God knows what? Sorry for referencing Deity when God and the angels have been finished off by science and secularism. Anyway, Randa gets SAS Capt Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) lens woman Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and Nam veterans led by Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson) on the uncharted island called Skull Island (which if I remember rightly is also the name of the island home of The Phantom aka The Ghost Who Walks) Packard’s belief that man is at the top of the food chain gets a hammering as Kong and an assortment of monsters attack the humans who must figure out how to survive/escape.
I suppose Skull Island is a metaphor for America’s Nam. Beautifully shot by Larry Fong, the film is saturated in glorious colour, both natural and CGI. All of the creatures are impressive, two legged homo sapiens not as much, with honourable exceptions like Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) the WWII pilot who befriends the islanders for whom lonely Kong is God-like. Brie Larson’s photojournalist is feisty, a far cry from Fay Wray’s damsel in distress in the 1933 original. Brie, needless to say, and the rest of the star-studded cast perform well but it’s the monster mayhem that will unnerve viewers.