Kong: Skull Island is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (‘The Kings of Summer’), and stars Brie Larson (‘Room’), Tom Hiddleston (‘High-Rise’), Samuel L. Jackson (‘Pulp Fiction’), John C. Reilly (‘Wreck It Ralph’), John Goodman (’10 Cloverfield Lane’) and Tony Kebbell (‘Rocknrolla’).
It’s 1975, and the day the Vietnam War ends. Monster hunters from a company called “Monarch” (Goodman) have satellite images that show a large creature on the unexplored Skull Island and put a team together to explore and investigate. There are plenty of cool entrances for everyone as we meet Mason Weaver (Larson) – a war photographer, Conrad (Hiddleston) – an ex-SAS tracker and survivalist with lots of very small t-shirts, and a military escort led by Packard (Jackson).
Packard’s helicopter squadron chopper everyone in and proceed to wisely drop “seismic charges” on the island for mapping. But they are basically bombs that awaken all the monsters on the island, including its protector and king: Kong. This film is a no-nonsense monster munch, and we get straight into the action with Kong swatting the whirlybirds from the sky and leaving the survivors spread across the island. They now have three days to survive Skull Island, it’s inhabitants, and get to the extraction point on the other side of the island. Conrad and Weaver’s group want to respectfully and carefully get out alive, but Packard wants revenge, and declares war on Kong.
Jackson’s vengeance fuelled maniac is the most he has tried at anything for years, and Hiddleston is eye candy with some good ideas, and a firm grasp on the Marvel-y attitude and sense of humour the movie embraces. Larson’s Weaver is no damsel, and gets stuck right into loads of fighting and shooting, with her having no romance between Tom or the big ape either. But the real MVP of the film is John C. Reilly. Playing a castaway who has been stuck on the island for twenty-eight years, Reilly is constant comedy gold – but as well as the biggest laughs he also provides tons of heart.
Vogt-Roberts has crafted an incredibly stylish blockbuster, that is full of Dutch angles, very cool slo-mo and an ‘Apocalypse Now’ look and feel. The film also has a great 70s soundtrack and the effects are jaw dropping. There are plenty of long clear looks at our huge hairy hero, and all of his baddie bashing as he wallops his way through giant spiders, a giant octopus, and plenty of “skull crawlers” – vicious lizard monsters that come from rifts under the island.
Kong’s final fight is lacklustre though, as he is battling another “skull crawler” – just a bigger one. The fight itself is inventive and fun, it just could have really done with a change of opponent type. The other draw back is a lack of any build up to character deaths. Humans die quickly and suddenly, which at first feels like a big shock, but when repeated it starts to feel like Vogt-Roberts does not have a handle on suspense, and should have watched ‘Jurassic Park’ again in pre-production.
In spite of this though, ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is a hundred foot of fun. It is an all-action-adventure that is full of non-stop eye-popping and chest-beating monster bashing, and you should definitely stay until after the credits…