Move over awards season, it’s time to celebrate the blockbuster.
Some would say that a seventh film about a giant ape is bordering on ridiculous, but I was captured from the opening line.
In the midst of a protest typical of 1973, Bill Randa (John Goodman) ironically utters: ‘Mark my words. They’ll never be a more screwed up time in Washington,’ to which I immediately settled into my seat, bucking myself in for the ride mid giggle.
Technically, this isn’t the opening sequence. Before we land in the 70s, we’re transported even further back to 1944 as a young American soldier flies into view (I can imagine it would have looked a lot more dramatic in 3D). A battle between the American and a Japanese soldier subsequently takes place before they both stop dead when a giant ape eyeballs them.
Jordan Vogt-Robert takes a new approach. For starters, Kong never leaves his homeland. We are on his turf, as the wacky Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), the soldier we were introduced to 28 years’ earlier, keeps reminding us.
With so many dystopian flicks set in the future, it’s refreshing for one to take us back in time. And it goes without saying that the soundtrack is incredible. And in my eyes (or ears), it makes the film.
Randa, a huge conspiracy theorist, manages to persuade the senator to let him round up a group of soldiers, fresh out of Vietnam, and join him on a ‘mapping mission’ *wink wink*.
Not-so-secretly though, Randa’s real aim is to prove the existence of huge monsters. Although we’re pretty much on Kong’s side from the get go (need I remind you that they are on his turf).
The ensemble is huge and has some big names. Award-winning Brie Larson is the fearless female ‘anti-war’ photographer, Mason Weaver. Although unusual for the time, she is accepted as one of the pact. However, there is a brief but fleeting moment when her sex is pointed out by Colonel Packard (Samuel L Jackson) as he basically expresses that he thinks ‘Mason’ was a guy. Mason is a bad ass and to clarify, she’s definitely one that would embrace the women’s movement of the 70s.
Like most other films featuring Kong, he fails to resist her feminine charm. But this time he’s less pervy and more like a brother offering protection.
Vogt-Roberts sets the tone from the start with fast-paced action among sworn enemies. This is a huge theme throughout and it’s important to remember the context of the story. After coming from the front line of war, the American soldiers don’t even get time for a breather before they’re flung right back in to battle another enemy.
Their trauma is explored on face level. It’s clear that they’re brothers and stick together even when they don’t necessarily agree. Colonel Packard is arguably the most affected and takes out the anger initiated from losing his men at war on Kong. He sees enemies where there aren’t any and is incapable of forgiveness or empathy.
Although this is an emotional and very real issue, it isn’t explored too heavily and the film doesn’t become too dark as a result.
Despite this, it’s impossible to escape the context of the time and we’re forced to wonder who is the real monster.
Vogt-Roberts messes with genres. It goes from gory as fuck to the downright outrageous with no real consistent tone. But all in all, it serves its main purpose: to entertain. From the incredible effects, innovative camera angles, funny one-liners, quirky setting and classic playlist, it’s not the type of film where you’ll be found napping in your popcorn.
When it had finished I heard someone mutter: ‘Well that’s two hours I’ll never get back.’ Personally, I just think he was being a spoilsport. What else do you expect from a film about a giant ape?