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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

‘Kong’ is all effects, silly story — duh

It's made a little over $73 million since its March 10 release, which isn't breaking any records. Still, that's a respectable opening for "Kong: Skull Island," which I reviewed for Spokane Public Radio. Following is a transcription:

The great ape called Kong first hit the big screen in 1933. IMAX technology has been around since 1970. Now, in 2017, the two have joined forces, and the result almost makes a good movie. Well, half a good movie.

That was the realization I came to as I walked out of a screening of “Kong: Skull Island” and I began to wonder what I had just watched. Up until about halfway through the movie, I had been lulled by the IMAX big screen and 3D projection into enjoying something that was little more than a visual spectacle. But the attendant story all that technology was trying to tell? In that respect, not so much.

Set in 1973, “Kong: Skull Island” is a kind of mashup between the story of Kong, which has been retold at least twice since its debut – in 1976 and 2005 – and another look at that ghastly American debacle known as the Vietnam War. Think “King Kong” meets “Apocalypse Now.”

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, working from a team-written screenplay, gives us a story that begins with an obsessed mystery man with government connections. Actually, it begins during World War II with two enemy pilots duking it out on a beach – but I’ll get back to that.

The mystery man (played by John Goodman) manages to arrange an expedition to a mysterious island. For the final leg, and for added security, he convinces the authorities to let him bring along an American helicopter company. Fresh from duty in Vietnam, the chopper crews are led by a commander – played by Samuel L. Jackson – who makes Marlon’s Brando’s Colonel Kurtz look like a wimp.

Before the jungle dew has settled on the chopper blades, mayhem ensues – which causes Jackson’s character to go on a quest for vengeance. A vain quest, I might add, because … well, the Vietnam analogy isn’t for nothing.

Anyway, the remaining World War II vet (engagingly played by John C. Reilly) meets up with the survivors of the decimated expedition – including an intrepid Brit played by Tom Hiddleston and an American photographer played by Brie Larson – and they all try to make it to the coast. Which is code, you see, for last chopper out. Because again, Vietnam.

It’s clear that the screenwriters strived to find a new story to tell, one that was something more than the traditional tale of it being beauty who kills the beast. But what they came up with instead doesn’t bear close examination.

Because little about their script makes any sense. Not the island masked by a perpetual storm. Not the hole in the Earth from which ancient lizard monsters emerge. Not the story that the atomic tests were a cover-up for an attempt to kill such monsters. Nor the fact that a giant ape lives here. And especially not that the ape in question passes up squishing Larson’s tomboyish character when he gets the chance.

Still, none of this matters. Not really. Not to anyone sitting in front of that big screen and wearing those 3D glasses. Not, at least, until the house lights go up.

Below: Enjoy the trailer in beautiful Italian.

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