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The Ape Returns

Saturday, March 11, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

Kong: Skull Island
Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson and others
Rating: * * *

The giant ape King Kong has had many films (the first was as early as 1933) made about him—the image that comes to mind is the creature atop the Empire State Building, holding a terrified Fay Wray.

The new film, 'Kong: Skull Island' is a Jurassic Park meets Apocalypse Now kind of action adventure with a cast that lends it a lot more respectability than it needs or deserves. To add a touch of the serious, Jordan Vogt-Roberts sets the film in the early Seventies, when the US got out of Vietnam and there was a lot of angsty rage flying around.

An explorer-businessman, Bill Randa (John Goodman) convinces the government to send an expedition to try to find that mysterious uncharted island “where God didn't finish the creation, a place where myth and science meet.” On his crew are Lt. Colonel Packard (Samuel Jackson), Capt. Conrad (Tim Hiddleston—lending British class), Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), the combat photographer and a biologist (Corey Hawkins).

A pilot, Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), had crashed there during World War II and has lived there among the natives. He looks like a loony, tattered tramp, but knows all about the island.

As soon as the helicopters approach, they are swatted right out by the gigantic ape. The team has to struggle to survive, gather their strength and escape.

The 'hero' Kong is more massive than other giant apes so far-- a ferocious but tragic (as always), lonely figure, living with the bones of his species. If the massive reptiles and other creatures living on Skull Island were not enough, Packard is determined to kill Kong.

The film is grim and violent-- with giant beasts battling each other and humans being killed and eaten—but also with a comic-book lightness, as if to say that all that carnage is fine, but the film is meant to be enjoyed—like a video game or theme park ride. The film’s target audience is hardly going to look for subtext. There are sequels to come, for sure, in this man-vs-beast franchise.

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