Kong is king in ropey romp
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