This past weekend my husband and I took in our first big “summer blockbuster” of the year, Kong: Skull Island. I hadn’t read any reviews of the movie prior to the show, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not merely a sequel or remake of Peter Jackson’s 2005 epic. Instead, Kong featured an original story that offered plenty of action coupled with a well-developed plot (though the latter was somewhat obscured by the overwhelming special effects).
Set roughly forty years later than the last cinematic delivery of the giant ape, Kong touches on the 1970s world of chaos embodying war protesters and political upheaval, scientific leaps and social change. In this environment, a group of researchers pitch the need to uncover the secrets of a lost island “before the Russians do.”
Brie Larson as Mason Weaver, firing a flare gun. Photo courtesy of rottentomatoes.com
I was gratified that the female cast was not relegated to the role of damsels in distress, as in the classic versions of the giant monster genre. Leading actress Brie Larson, who, at first glance appears to fit the stereotype of the beautiful blonde traditionally captured by the giant ape; ably held her own with the boys in pitched fights against the monster baddies. Actually it was her character, Mason Weaver, a war photographer, who finished off the first of the creepy, two legged giant skull crawlers the group of scientists and soldiers encountered, with plenty of help from James Conrad, played by costar Tom Hiddleston.
Though female leads in action films have become somewhat more common in the last decade, thanks to series such as Resident Evil and Underworld, they are still not the norm whenever mammoth monsters take center stage. It is indeed refreshing to see a female character that is portrayed as competent, resourceful, and just as brave as her male companions.
Larson’s character did later get up close and personal with the big guy, an encounter which showed that Kong truly was not the antagonist, but rather a tragic hero in his own right. It was her empathy and insight, coupled with the intuition and heroism of Hiddleston’s character, which led to the confrontation with Col. Packard, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Prejudiced due to his experience in the Vietnam War and the opening encounter with the giant ape, the Colonel had failed to understand that Kong was not the enemy, and almost caused a disaster as he tried to destroy their would-be protector. Larson struck a decisive blow in the penultimate battle that saw the remaining humans ally with Kong against the granddaddy of the skull crawlers for ultimate survival.
Overall, Kong was a rare movie worth the outrageous price of the 3D ticket. I would recommend it to any fans of monster movie or action genres.