WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2017)
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Toby Kebbell, John C. Reilly, Jing Tian, Shea Whigham
Kong is back, and bigger than ever.
Moving the story forward to post-Vietnam USA (1973), the Monarch group – an underground group that studies and tracks massive monsters, basically - has discovered an unidentified island in the Pacific surrounded by mega storms which they believe could be home to magic and wonder. Agent Bill Randa (Goodman) assembles a crack squad to infiltrate the island for reconnaissance and geological reasons – or at least that’s what the team are told. Led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Jackson) and team, joined by photographer Mason Weaver (Larson) and ex-SAS servant James Conrad (Hiddleston) – the large team head for Skull Island.
Getting through the storms is the easy part, dropping the seismic charges to ‘read the earth’ is simple. Then Kong arrives, and boy is he not happy to see a platoon of helicopters.
Vogt-Roberts wastes no time in introducing the movies titular character, he’s glanced within the first 5 minutes and shown in full glory within 30 minutes, rising against a blood red sun in one of the movies most stunning shots. This Kong is huge, much bigger than previous manifestations, and he doesn’t fuck about. He’s one angry monkey. His action set pieces are spectacular and set to titanic sound effects (thanks to Skywalker Sounds) that roar from the screen. The initial mismatch battle is the movies high point in terms of action. The plethora of weird and huge monsters introduced are impressive and deviate from what has come before – there’s a giant octopus, a woolly mammoth-like beast, a spider with mantis legs, pterodactyls and the Skullcrawlers – fearsome dinolizards and Kong’s enemies. Each provide fun moments for the characters to negotiate and explosive action pieces for Kong to exploit.
The acting is solid throughout, Jackson’s lieutenant blinded by revenge was a high point and Reilly’s marooned Marlow steals the movie when introduced halfway through. Hiddleston and Larson deliver throughout, though I feel could have been utilised in a more effective way. Again though, overall the acting was great from all involved. The characters were set up well in the introduction and we aren’t subjected to long, drawn out exposition – the initial pacing is fine, but lags slightly in the middle.
There are issues with the movie, of course. After being involved in a fiery helicopter crash, Hiddleston and Larson emerge hair intact and still looking beautiful (minus the odd, almost irritatingly applied bruise) as the others either tend to their bloody wounds or are just content to be, well, dead. Larson seems more intent on photographing the team (and plenty of topless soldiers) rather than the actual WTF moments going on around her. With the movie set in 1973, the Apocalypse Now references are off the scale, and it isn’t subtle. Whilst the acting is good, some of the dialogue is too melodramatic or just plain obvious – Larson comments she’s photographed many mass graves to know one when she sees one as she is literally surrounded by massive skeletons – and Sam Jackson is allowed his obligatory lines (“Kill this son of a bitch”, “it’s time to show Kong that MAN is king”) and there’s lots of messages of the effects of war here, all delivered dramatically and none feeling organic.
Also, Kong: Skull Island – sponsored by Budweiser.
Kong: Skull Island is an entertaining monster romp that has great action, some jaw-dropping visuals and a super simian, but when the monkey outshines the humans that isn’t always a good thing. A step up from Peter Jackson’s bloated 2005 offering, Kong is back – bigger and badder than ever. Far from perfect, but far from terrible. The 2020 tie-in movie, Godzilla vs Kong looms massive on the horizon.
Billy’s never going to get that letter either.
June 27th 2017