April 25, 2017

Kong is Still the King

by Blaine Payer ’17

A&E Staff

I went to the movie theater this weekend intending to see Beauty and the Beast, but in a surprising twist I only saw the beast. Disney’s latest smash hit was sold out three days in advance, leaving me with few options besides the newest King Kong movie, Kong: Skull Island. Just as with any big-budget, star-studded monster movie, I was expecting mediocrity. This Kong adaptation, however, is not just any monster movie.

Starring Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and Samuel L. Jackson, the new King Kong movie has become a surprising success, making the future of classic film reboots finally start to look a little brighter. The movie’s success also marks the halfway point of a five-year-long monster movie reboot, opening the door to a return of Hollywood’s most beloved beasts.

Kong: Skull Island, directed by newcomer Jordan Vogt-Roberts, opened to wide praise and an impressive $61 million weekend. Although that number is only a fraction of its massive $185 million budget, it will have no trouble closing the gap with room to spare in domestic sales over the next few weeks. It is also predicted to do well in overseas markets, specifically China, who has a long history of King Kong movies and his many escapades with their own cultural icon, Godzilla.

Kong: Skull Island chronicles the adventures of a military-backed government research agency that sets out to explore an uncharted island called Skull Island. Set in the immediate aftermath of The Vietnam War and utilizing the help of master-tracker James Conrad, the group arrives on Skull Island armed with enough helicopters, napalm, guns, and ammunition to make the Vietcong run for the hills. Unfortunately, that is not nearly enough to threaten Kong or the other creatures that dwell on, as John Goodman’s character puts it, “the island where God stopped creating.” The team soon find itself fighting for survival against anything that moves, with factions forming amidst the leadership as to who the real enemy is—Kong or man.

Vogt-Roberts transforms his action-packed spectacle into a poignant critique on mankind’s ill-treatment of nature, as well as the growing culture of xenophobia that so tragically plagues America today. Audiences heard Jackson heroically proclaim in the trailers that, “It’s time again to prove that man is king,” while the film challenges the audience to evaluate that claim and determine whether man is the kind of king that the world needs, or even wants. Rest assured, Kong makes sure to answer that question personally.

Luckily, Skull Island is not the last that audiences will see of Kong for long. Cinemablend reported late last year that the film is actually a follow-up to the Gareth Edwards helmed project, Godzilla, from back in 2014. Legendary Pictures, the studio behind Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, has a four-movie deal revolving around two of the biggest monsters of the 20th century.

Kong: Skull Island is the second of four films, with Godzilla 2 set for a 2018 release. The series will climax with the highly anticipated Godzilla vs. King Kong, which will stomp its way into theaters by June 2020. Basically, both King Kong and Godzilla have gotten their origin stories properly polished and repackaged, which has set them on a slow-but-steady path towards a confrontation of epic proportions.

One must always be skeptical when it comes to remakes of classic movies, especially monster movies, which makes the success of Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island that much more exciting. However, above all, the newest success from Legendary Pictures serves to remind us that not only is Kong still the King, but that he will never be dethroned.

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