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I went in with one expectation: to watch a building-sized gorilla. That being said, the film was refreshing for ground that has been tread for decades. It didn't bring anything new to the table, but it didn't play entirely safe either.
Samuel L Jackson shines here as a tired and on edge commander. He steals almost every scene, and the film gives him center-stage when appropriate. Yet he cannot drive the entire film, especially with other great names.
Discussing the other characters brings up the largest issue: it's trying to do too many things. Characters are all over the place. It's easier to connect to the archetype than the character. Is this guy crazy, sane, or a war hero; is this person set for revenge, confirmation, or science; does our adventurer want adventure, money, or work?
Again, they know what type of movie they are, and I respect them trying to give depth to shallow archetypes. But it is not consistent what type of characters they are making.
The visuals were stunning. Shot in Vietnam, which is very appropriate given the post-Vietnam war setting, the island feels real enough to be an actual forgotten location. There is rarely a point I think this island couldn't exist. The giant fauna inhabiting the island feel just as natural.
The only issue with the visual direction is it didn't really feel like it was set in the 1970's post-Vietnam. Yes, they keep playing period rock, but that doesn't date the film alone. This isn't a nitpick, but rather an oddity.
The plot was alright. Again, it knows what type of movie this is, it was predictable. I won't spoil it, but there's not much to spoil. Everything doesnít deviant from the tracks much.
Here again, the plot felt disjointed. Ideas and concepts were brought up only to never have any actual plot bearing. (A fascinating theory comes up twice. We don't see it, it doesn't affect anything, and nothing happens).
Death was frequent and unexpected. It gave the feeling at times where no-one was off limits. But it was also irreverent and almost glossed over. "Move on" as one character says. It was varied and interesting, surprisingly vivid at times, but a good part of the film.
What about star of the show?
Kong was great. Effects were distinct, you really understood his scale and power, and he was just fun to watch. He was on-screen much more than some giant monsters in recent cinema **Cough** Godzilla **Cough**. No complaints or comments. He was fun.
I go to see a building-sized gorilla do stuff, and I see a building-sized gorilla do stuff. Check.
Expectations aside, this was an interesting film. Sure, there were character and plot issues, and the tone bordered on uninteresting, yet it was not a boring film. There was great action and pacing, visuals were stunning, and there were moments of great acting.
Overall it doesnít tread new ground, but itís a great watch for an evening.
Yeah, there's no other way to put it, this is a B-movie. But there's a real awareness to this status.
Admittedly, the story takes a little while to really pick up, mostly to set up the motivations (though they are admittedly rather loose). But once it gets to the island, that's when the action picks up, and it picks up fast. And its damn good action at that, with some top notch cinematography; in a time where action is generally done through quick shots and edits, much of the action is shot in a way where we linger on one shot for a time, which is often just the monsters fighting or roaring. There are, however, a number of scenes that are rather slow, and while I wouldn't be opposed to it, it creates a rather severe contrast between the fast paced, and quick action, to these slow, and plodding dialogue scenes.
Though the acting is alright, the characters are cutouts, and you've probably seen these characters in just about every action film. Though I do wish we could get some slightly more interesting human characters, they're obviously not intended to be the focus; the focus is obviously supposed to be on Kong. And I will say I liked Sam Jackson's portrayal as an Ahab-esque figure, which certainly held my attention. There's one particularly good scene where he and Kong make eye contact with flames surrounding Kong.
Speaking of the giant primate, I'd say he's definitely pretty good in this as well. The design is retro enough to look like the original, but new enough to feel like this is its own rendition. He also grunts, roars, and beats his chest, all while fighting giant lizards, which I imagine a lot of people going to see this movie would want, and there is certainly plenty of that.
In conclusion, if you're hoping for a movie with giant monster brawls, I'd definitely recommend it. But be prepared to deal with some pretty corny, and stupid scenes.
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