sleepy’s review published on Letterboxd:
I was always a little disappointed that more people didn't take to this film back when it was released. Why can't everyone treat Marvel movies or the endless, soulless Disney remakes like they did Kong and collectively shrug & call them stupid?! 🥺🥺🥺 Oh well, I think this movie is pretty cool! It's a big dumb monkey blockbuster that's also low-key about the futility of conflict. Yeah dude this is pretty much Apocalypse Kong.
What's most important about this film is that it has character and vision beyond its shared universe with Godzilla and expected reboot baggage. Aside from a lame 'avengers assemble' post-credits scene, this is stand-alone. References to the original King Kong are mostly in the background as well. So we're left with this very stylish, super colourful and assuredly FUN blockbuster adventure that feels new despite its familiar large ape.
I think this has plenty of really engaging direction, editing and cinematography choices. There's a lot of exciting action that's varied and shows off fantastic CGI. Its pacing is really well thought out, it never enters a lull for the full 2 hours. Action scenes are purposefully overblown and staged in visually pleasing ways. Though it's also never quite on the level of "mindless fun", since it views Kong through the lens of the Vietnam war in ways that aren't totally frivolous.
The film's Vietnam subtext is honestly pretty nice for a big monkey movie. When I first watched it I took it as simply borrowing an aesthetic for stylistic purposes, which is definitely a core reason and a well thought out one since the aesthetic adds visual flair and gives the film more character. But while its not exactly subtle, it's not stupid either. We get the cast split into two parties, one made up of mostly Vietnam vets and one mostly of civilians, and get to see how each handles a new environment with ambiguously dangerous creatures before linking back up to clash viewpoints. Characters are senselessly taken out and eventually everyone ends up wondering what they're even fighting for.
But the film's biggest issue lies in its dauntingly large cast. I think there's some good ideas at play: Sam Jackson's character can't pass off the Vietnam war as a loss, John C. Reilly being misplaced in time since WWII and the hilarious abrupt payoff to Shea Whigham's character's selflessness is a great nihilistic punchline. HOWEVER, who's the main character? Tom Hiddleston is introduced as a cartoonish over the top action man, but then just kinda chills and acts as a vanilla hero with nothing much interesting to say. Brie Larson is the conscientious objector, but also just a vanilla action movie sidekick. I think sticking to the film's over the top style and pushing these characters to be more distinct would do the film wonders. I mean, what even are their character's names? Ah well. I'll admit the film stumbles there for sure.
So it's not quite spectacular, but it's so much fun and despite its flaws being fairly apparent I'll look past them to have fun with Kong and the gang. This is the sort of tone and level of style I wish blockbuster reboots like Jurassic World helmed, just go crazy take the original's ideas and remix it with all kinds of other silly stuff to create a distinct new experience. Definitely underrated!