Kong is king in ropey romp

Lennox Herald - - THE TICKET -

Kong: Skull Is­land (12A) Be­fore fac­ing off with Godzilla in a heavy­weight bat­tle of the beasts in 2020, the world’s big­gest ape re­turns for his first solo flick in nearly 12 years.

A team of plucky ex­plor­ers and trig­ger­happy sol­diers travel to an is­land in the Pa­cific, un­aware they are cross­ing into the do­main of mon­sters, in­clud­ing the mythic Kong.

More in keep­ing with 2014’s Godzilla re­boot than Kong’s 1933 and 2005 es­capades, Jor­dan Vogt-Roberts’ – helm­ing only his sec­ond big screen out­ing af­ter 2013 ‘dram­edy’ The Kings of Sum­mer – block­buster is a rol­lick­ing ride that’s sorely lack­ing in emo­tion and meaty sto­ry­telling.

The four-strong writ­ing team do a good job of build­ing up to Kong’s reap­pear­ance – and creat­ing an ex­panded uni­verse with the re­cent Godzilla movie – but fail to en­gage their hu­man cast.

With Tom Hid­dle­ston (James Con­rad), Brie Lar­son (Ma­son Weaver), Sa­muel L. Jack­son (Pre­ston Packard) and John C. Reilly (Hank Mar­low) all on board, it’s like the line-up of a Mar­vel con­ven­tion at Comic Con.

Hid­dle­ston and Lar­son strug­gle to im­pose them­selves – the for­mer in par­tic­u­lar feel­ing mis­cast – and only re­ally Reilly is granted an in­ter­est­ing story arc; al­though at times his crazy old coot feels dropped in from an en­tirely dif­fer­ent film.

For­tu­nately, Kong him­self re­mains a true cin­e­matic colos­sus; stand­ing at 104 feet, this is the big­gest Kong com­mit­ted to screen and Toby Kebbell fol­lows his Planet of the Apes turn with an­other out­stand­ing mo­tion-cap­ture per­for­mance that im­bues Kong with even more hu­man­ity than Peter Jack­son’s dig­i­tal team man­aged 12 years ago.

Short, sharp shocks and peril-packed en­coun­ters are also sup­plied by the myr­iad of ad­di­tional beast­ies con­jured up by VogtRoberts and Co, with gi­ant squids, spi­ders and Skull­crawlers light­ing up the screen.

Sub­tle and not-so-sub­tle vis­ual and au­dio trib­utes are made to Viet­nam-based flicks – the film is set in 1975, just as the con­flict is com­ing to an end – peak­ing with buzzing he­li­copters tar­get­ing Kong as the sun pre­pares to set and a fiery show­down.

Ku­dos to Vogt-Roberts too for end­ing things with a bang; it may lack the iconog­ra­phy of Kong’s pre­vi­ous fa­mous cli­maxes, but lets just say the awe­some ape shows ev­ery­one who is boss come the fi­nale.

Uni­verse build­ing is also kept to a bare min­i­mum as the pro­duc­tion and writ­ing team go down the early Mar­vel movies’ route of film­ing an in­trigu­ing post-cred­its sequence.

I would call it just about even be­tween Kong and Godzilla based on their most re­cent ad­ven­tures, but the lat­ter has one more chance to show off his jaw-drop­ping cre­den­tials in 2019’s King of Mon­sters.

A year later he’ll have one hell of a fight on his hands to prove wor­thy of that moniker.

Mon­ster hunter­sHid­dle­ston and Lar­son in ac­tion

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