I dragged The Boy along to see this one. (The Barbarienne was an enthusiastic accomplice to my kaiju venture.) I never really got into the giant monster movies as a kid. King Kong aside, which of course I loved—along with any Harryhausen—I found them dumb and boring. (Although, I had a bit of a soft spot for Rodan and Mothra.) But if you take the kaiju movie for what it is it can be pretty entertaining, as we saw with the recent Godzilla flick, or Pacific Rim.
I didn’t stay to the end of the movie so I missed the (now obvious) tie-in to a kind of “Kaiju Cinematic Universe”, doubtless a bunch of planned CGI-extravaganzas centered around the classic Toho monsters and America’s only major contribution to the genre, RKO’s King Kong. (I don’t think anyone’s pining for the 50 foot woman or the Amazing Colossal Man or, I don’t know, the big ants from Them!)
But the movie stands on its own just fine. It takes place at the end of the Vietnam war and is laden with some of the most awful and egregious Vietnam war movie clichés you can imagine—which, actually, didn’t bug me. They were cheesy and out of place and get so ridiculously over the top with the help of Samuel L. Jackson (who’s no more believable as a general than he is a highly trained international assassin), who the script uses to tease every opportunity to present a differing viewpoint in a reasonable way only to utterly abandon any sense of humanity or decency by the end of the film.
Kong’s not the real monster here, guys. It’s the US military, top to bottom.
I should be offended, or maybe somebody should be, but at this point it’s like most movies are telling urban legends around a campfire when it comes to anything related to the US military and especially the Vietnam War. It’s like the Gravediggers Guild being upset by tales of “Burke and Hare”, or barbers getting upset over “Sweeney Todd”. It’s just so removed from anything like reality at this point, that it’s just a dumb trope.
The story, as I recall it, is that a bunch of contemporary (early ’70s) soldiers/journalists investigate a mysterious island which is surrounded by a treacherous weather pattern that both hides it and keeps outsiders away. A mission to the island (for nebulous reasons) reveals a lost WWII-era soldier (John C. Reilly), numerous forms of threatening fauna and flora, as well as a Kong (King). Crazy-eyed Jackson decides he needs to kill it, out of revenge and because he’s representing the US military. The others become increasingly aware of his instability and menace to both them and possibly the world as a whole.
Sure, you’ve seen it before. A lot. And you’ll see it again. And like it, see? At least sorta.
Basically, nicely done effects (a little strained in some of the earlier parts), some good action, some good character interaction greatly shored up by Reilly, John Goodman, Tom Hiddleston, and a light touch by “Funny or Die” (seriously) alumnus Jordan Vogt-Roberts. He does a good job keeping it light without being snarky or snide, and giving his characters some gravitas without making them thespian funeral dirges. It’s good popcorn stuff.
Twitter pal The Dude (@WoodWhisperers) actually gave me a mini-master-class on the best generation of Kaiju films, and he views this movie as somewhat disappointing, in terms of lost opportunities. (And when someone knows their stuff, you gotta file that info for future research.) But for a bunch of amateurs (The Boy and the Barb), it was an okay time, and we would probably recommend it, if you’re not an expert and you might like a movie about a Giant Gorilla of Justice.