Crash down. Tropical Island. World War II. American vs. Japanese pilots are fighting in the jungle after they jump out of their planes.. Kong breaks up the fight but scene ends before you know what happens & you will spend 86 minutes wondering if the only reason this scene existed was so they could show you the monster right away. Fast forward 20-ish years to the 70s & now we care about satellites and Vietnam!
A car pulls up in Washington, and in a line almost certainly added in re-shoots after November 8th, John Goodman gets in a “most messed up time ever in Washington” and we laugh but really we cry because we know that we can no longer truly believe in our shattered joke of a government. John Goodman and the guy from the new 24 (who’s trying to pretend he’s a nerd. We’re not buying it Young Dr. Dre) believe in some weird stuff (like monsters) and want to explore this new island some nerds found. They convince “Senator” to let them piggy-back on a mapping expedition but also they want a military escort. Why is there always a senator in charge of just unilaterally OK-ing harebrained schemes?
Cut to Vietnam & the end-ish of the war there. ENTER SAMUEL L JACKSON, who must appear in at least 1 of every 3 movies that features guns or explosions, by law. In Kong, Sammy gets to play “shortsighted old white man with misguided chip on his shoulder.” It’s weird, cause as we all know, Sammy is a proud black man. Sammy L decides his crew of helicopter pilots–whose well being he is def responsible for–should not go home tomorrow from their long and harrowing stay in Vietnam like they are s’posed to; but instead will be the escort on this ill-advised mission. Have we mentioned there is no intel yet? He just agrees to this, because Sammy L is Not Done Soldiering. Men need tasks. They need to Soldier. Or they waste away and bother everyone with things like Infinite Jest.
ENTER BRIE LARSON who somehow has found out about this expedition and even though she is V high-status photographer who has been “in the shit” in Vietnam, wants to go on this expedition because who knows & art & necessary post-oscar action-movie wage-bump. And thank god she does because Brie Larson is actually great in this movie and you can almost HEAR her being like “how bout we don’t make the women stupid?” But more important than ANYTHING is that Brie Larson’s Hair is goddamned fantastic this entire movie and it is the height of improbable that women’s hair stays nice in disaster movies but that’s the patriarchy for you. Before Jungle Trouble she’s giving you modernized Farah Fawcett and mid-Jungle Trouble it’s all ‘tousled side-swipe never in need of a hairtie. (Why do women in action movies NEVER have hairties? It is literally the first thing I would bring on an adventure.) Anyway, she’s there, and the sneaky science dudes (John Goodman and 24/Dr. Dre) recruit Tom Hiddleston who beats up some dudes in a bar and has a legit FLAWLESS tan so you know he’s worth it.
Everyone gets on a large boat. We have the obligatory “This is The Plan” scene where we learn the island is surrounded by a storm system at all times which seems really ominous, but who cares this whole scene is just foreshadowing what absolutely all of us know already so you’re forgiven for tuning out. Brie Larson’s Hair and Tommy Hiddlecool have a meet cute in the bomb shelter of the boat & honestly if there’s a flaw in this movie it’s that those 2 never kiss because their tans deserve each other. The boat reaches the “storm area” and one Science guy tries to back out & it’s like you already said the whole island was surrounded by storms so why are you surprised? But also because you’re a coward you will for sure be one of the first to die horribly and he for sure does. The copter pilots fly everyone through the storm, which is sort of unnecessary except to establish pilot bromance between Easy E and the guy who will play Lieutenant Dan if Forest Gump ever goes to Broadway. (remember their bromance, it will be sad later.)
So of COURSE they drop these “geo depth charges” which is literally just “drop bombs all over the island and get “readings” and this naturally pisses off Kong who is like “I was NAPPING and now you’re KILLING my island-mates and waking up the underground-dwelling DemonLizards that literally ONLY I can protect the island from and fuck you guys!” Kong DESTROYS all the helicopters and TBH it’s pretty badass. If you’re gonna show us the monster you better nail it and they do. Now the survivors are all split up.
We’ve got group A) The Ferngully’s. Which is Sammy L, a scientist who is an asshole and legit has no narrative purpose, John Goodman who very much believes in monsters and wants to kill them because that is the only way to deal with anything you don’t understand god men are stupid, and most of the leftover soldiers/pilots. The Ferngully group does not respect the island or nature and the island can sense it. Like how a horse knows when you’re afraid to ride it, and the island is jacking their shit up for the rest of the movie. Most notably there is a giant BambooSpider with legs that spear the unsuspecting and it is dope. The Ferngullies are hellbent on rendezvousing with their other fallen comrade where the copters full of bombs crashed because they are men with chips on their shoulders (Sammy L) and they are going to blow up Kong come hell or high water.
Group B) just one soldier who writes letters to his son and he’s stranded by himself and is trying to get back to his platoon but he gets GOBBLED by a demonLizard just after we started to get invested and sympathize with him and he shouldn’t have even BEEN ON THIS MISSION. His tour was up and he should have been home with his family & it’s all Sam Jackson’s fault.
Group C) the only one with women in it and thus is the “take only pictures (BL takes so many pictures it’s like, we get it) leave only footprints” philosophy. Brie Larson, Tom Tracker Hiddleston, the Asian Woman Who Is A Scientist But Doesn’t Get to Actually Do Anything, Black Guy Who Is Also Scientist and Kind of Predicted the Earth under the Island was Hollow and That’s Where Monsters Live?, and one last pilot soldier. The island digs their vibe and they have an amazing journey and see GIANT water bison the size of tiny islands and the aurora borealis and meet some native peoples and discover that JOHN C MUHFUCKIN REILLY was lurking on this island the whole time!
Turns out JCR is the pilot from the opening scene & we’re like “ooooh, now it makes sense.” and he is 100% the best part of this movie that isn’t Brie Larson’s hair. He says things like “The war’s over, did we win?” and they go “which one” and he ZINGS back “That makes sense.” Which is honestly too real because the world is a nightmare and humanity is the root cause. ANYWAYS, JCR has a boatplane and they all heave-ho to get it working. There is much turning of gears and sparking of wires like how in movies when you have to make it seem like everyone is working but if you actually understand mechanics or engineering at all it’s just nonsense movements but you don’t mind because all of these gentlemen look great in rolled up sleeves.
JCR explains that Kong is actually a really dope guy who would be totes chill if these morons hadn’t come onto the island dropping literal bombs. Kong is “god of the island” and, as mentioned, protects everyone from being gobbled by demonLizards. I cannot stress enough how scary these demonLizards are, but apparently they just nap mostly unless you bomb their roofs which pretty much makes sense. The Eat Pray Love group gets the boat working and putt-putt up the river. They get attacked by a demonLizard but Kong saves them. Brie Larson has a Black Beauty hand-nose-touching moment with Kong and is like “I get you. I am a fantastic actress and somehow I am pulling off this scene.”
Group A & C finally meet up and everyone is happy and making a plan to get to the “off the island” point–disaster adventure movies always have a magic map spot that if you can just get to, the audience knows the movie will be solved and we can fast-forward to the credits–but Sammy L is like “NO! I’ve realized my foolhardy selfish quest for adventure has gotten many of my men killed, and I need to assuage my guilt by hurting things because testosterone.” And takes his soldiers to go get the bombs to blow up Kong & won’t listen to anyone. And Kong DOES show up and Sammy tries to Burn him alive and it is legit sad and dark and OF COURSE the “big lizard”–the one the native islanders were like, don’t wake up the big one, whatever you do–arrives and it’s like see Sammy? We told you Kong needs to stay alive because he’s not the monsteriest monster, THIS IS. John Goodman gets chomped. Not Lieutenant Dan tells everyone to run and holds grenades in his hands to sacrifice himself as a booby-trapped snack but it doesn’t work at ALL and Easy E cries. It’s V touching but there’s no time. FINALLY Sammy’s like “Oh shit, I have miscalculated but will cling to my plan because I am too proud! Open Fire!” DemonLizards care nothing for your paltry human fire-power. There’s a giant monster fight scene because mere fire cannot defeat Kong and Brie Larson helps by shooting the demonLizard in the ear with a flare gun (Seriously, Brie, how’d you learn to shoot you haven’t even touched a gun all movie) and Kong kills the lizard and stops BL from plummeting to her death. Sammy L dies because he for sure should. Everyone else makes it to the rendezvous point and JCR goes home to his wife who thought he was dead for 23 years but I guess is totes chill & never remarried but his son has stupid sideburns so you can’t win em all.