The Bock’s Office: ‘Kong’ keeps going strong as reigning king of Hollywood |

The Bock’s Office: ‘Kong’ keeps going strong as reigning king of Hollywood

Andy Bockelman
A team of helicopters approach the massive Kong in "Kong: Skull Island." The movie is about a 1970s expedition to the home of the giant ape.

If you go...

“Kong: Skull Island,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 118 minutes

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

Besides the time period in which it’s set, “Kong: Skull Island” bears a great deal in common with movies like “Apocalypse Now.” But, though what the quarry characters are after is about the same build as the man who played Walter Kurtz, he’s much less demanding, at least in terms of salary.

If you go…

“Kong: Skull Island,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 118 minutes

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

The year is 1973, and the United States military is on the verge of withdrawing troops from the Vietnam War. Amid this news, the head of government-funded agency Monarch, Bill Randa (John Goodman), seeks money and a military escort for an unusual project.

Randa has his sights set on an uncharted part of the globe that has been sought after for years: Skull Island, a South Pacific locale shrouded in mystery that could hold untold resources.

With a former British special forces officer (Tom Hiddleston), a photo journalist (Brie Larson), scientists and an army squadron in tow, the expedition manages to find the island in question. No sooner do they begin scanning the landscape, they’re attacked by something completely unexpected: a 100-foot tall gorilla.

The massive ape decimates the group, which winds up spread across the island with limited time before its rendezvous with an extraction team. Worse yet, its first encounter with Skull Island’s fauna is hardly its most dangerous.

Hiddleston manages to be the leading man purely by default but still convinces as James Conrad, a tracker who’s burnt out on war but not adventure. He’s got good chemistry with Larson’s Mason Weaver, a shutterbug who’s been embedded with American troops in hopes of exposing “The Truth” to the world.

Though she’s far less helpless than Fay Wray, Jessica Lange or Naomi Watts, she still catches the eye of a certain tall, dark and hairy guy, who must have a predilection for blondes.

He’s dealt with the Avengers, raptors run amok, a jet packed with snakes and a hormone-driven Christina Ricci, but Jackson may have met his match, though his Lt. Col. Preston Packard won’t accept defeat. The military lifer takes the pull-out of Vietnam as a personal affront and begins to take on a Captain Ahab approach to conquering Kong.

Bad idea, according to John C. Reilly, as a loopy World War II pilot who’s been marooned on Skull Island for decades and has come to accept the big guy as a protector from the real threats. He calls them Skullcrawlers but only because he’s never run that name past a focus group other than the native tribe that never speaks.

Of course, he’s also more shocked at the idea of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series drought than news of a man on the moon, so maybe he’s not the prime candidate for information.

Though there have been multiple iterations of Kong throughout the years, only three mattered: the 1933 landmark introduction to the Eighth Wonder of the World, the overly faithful 2005 epic remake and the 1976 abomination that got everything wrong.

What we have here falls somewhere in between.

The visual effects are undoubtedly better than even Peter Jackson’s take on the classic tale, even if the creature feature tactics get repetitive, with colossal creepy-crawlers that we’ve seen before.

To be fair, we’ve never seen them attacked with napalm.

The wartime subtext is insightful, yet not all that well executed by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who seems to think he’s exceptionally clever by focusing on a Tricky Dick bobblehead as helicopters drop explosives across the island upon arrival.

A particularly unimaginative soundtrack also does little to help things along. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run Through the Jungle” while characters are indeed running through the jungle. Wow, you nailed it.

Still, what works is what’s worked for more than 80 years, the further examination of Kong himself, bigger than ever and keeping the same traits we’ve always loved — a solitary ruler, a chest-pounding god to some and a gargantuan, gentle soul who’s the last of his kind. And, hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of him yet.

It may merely be a new look at an old story, but “Kong: Skull Island” still succeeds as a resurrection of one of cinema’s greatest legends and, ideally, a jumping-off-point for more to come.

And, given the influences, let’s just be glad nobody uttered the line, “I love the smell of bananas in the morning.”

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

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