Kong won't even give me giant ants

By Scott Whitney

Yeah, I'm bad, one bad mother-fucking movie

Jordan Charles Vogt-Roberts directed this movie and unless you’re a Sundance film groupie or historian or both his name won’t mean anything to you. It certainly didn’t mean anything to me and I’m not sure after Kong it ever will. Executive producer Ridley Scott does mean something and you’ll find his influences all over Kong, though probably not in any admirable way. But we’re name-dropping now, which happens to be the most successful thing the movie does. Whatever Vogt-Roberts pitched to get this thing made, he clearly mentioned The Dirty Dozen, Apocalypse Now, King Kong (all versions) and a little liberal wink-wink to indigenous people. It’s one of those films, or really a dozen of them.

The story begins in 1944, well not really. The movie begins in 1944 with the crash landing of two pilots on Monster, I mean, Skull Island. Then the movie really begins in 1973 with a monster hunter, a geologist, a photographer, a squadron of military helicopter pilots, and a team of expendable scientists. Trust me you won’t miss anyone of them except for Toby Kebbell who dies too soon to actually act, which he does well, just not here. His death is so sudden that it doesn’t even register as a death and in the world of Hollywood rehashes that might stand out as a kind of aesthetic triumph.

Do they look heroic? Kind of, I guess.
Speaking of aesthetic triumphs, you can watch Tom Hiddleston stand in the corners of rooms and play a cliché. Or Brie Larson bristle as an anti-war-war photographer, a staple of 70’s and 80’s war films. Savvy enough to figure out that there’s something strange going on with this expedition, she requests to be a part of it and immediately has a confrontation with the other walking metaphor of the movie: Samuel L Jackson as the Samuel Jackson character. He’s the helicopter pilot who wants out after just one more mission. They all feel like characters out of Apocalypse Now who didn’t make the cut. I long for the monster movie where the metaphors take a backseat to the monster. Instead in Kong the monsters take a back seat to a story that doesn’t matter and it’s up to Samuel Jackson to explain it all to us.

Give us some monsters!
John C. Reilly plays a pilot and I found myself kind of relating to him. He’s believably insane even if he’s just comic relief. Or from a different perspective, he lets you legitimately laugh at this laughable film. And so Reilly fulfills what the movies can’t—it’s promises. At one point our team comes across a giant wall riddled with spikes as large as redwood trees stained with blood. It’s actually a terrifying image and would have been a good moment for Brie Larson to run through the wall to try and save an injured animal or something, but alas Vogt-Roberts has no idea what to do with his accidentally good ideas.

And don’t get me going about the giant ants that never appear. How can you have Reilly spill the beans on giant ants and never have them show up? Kong, it’s a crime.

©Scott Whitney and the CCA Arts Review

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