As I'm not a huge fan of reboots, my expectations for Kong: Skull Island were not that high.There was also no real fanfare for Skull Island in the UK and it sort of just appeared.
Having said that. This new version of the infamous giant Gorilla story has a totally different spin on it. There is no film crew led by a deranged and pompous director or even the obligatory cannibalistic local natives to deal with.
Unlike the painfully slow build up in Peter Jacksons King Kong (2005) which by the way was over 3 hours long. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts version is spot on 2 hours running time and is a more exciting and humorous movie.
The film opens in 1945 where we witness the end of an aerial ‘dog-fight’ between an American pilot and Japanese fighter pilot, somewhere over an island in the Pacific Ocean. Both men are forced to bail out and it then becomes a race to see which parachute can land first and then shoot the other down.
Before any outcome, the two opposing soldiers are confronted with the unbelievable sight of a monstrous and angry Gorilla.
We now fast forward to 1973. The Vietnam war is coming to a close and government official William Randa (John Goodman) from an organization called Monarch sees this as an opportunity to ask for funding for his next expedition to explore an uncharted island in the South Pacific.
According to Randa and his partner geologist Houston Brooks, (Corey Hawkins / 24: Legacy) there has been mysterious disappearances of planes and ships (similar to the Bermuda Triangle) in the area, coupled with stories of strange creatures and undiscovered fauna on this island.
With funding under their belts, they also enlist the services of an army platoon recently disbanded following the Vietnam withdrawal of US troops led by a Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson).
Next on their list is an experienced tracker, explorer and ex-SAS officer James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to lead the way and a war correspondent photographer, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to document the findings.
The film has been reference to Apocalypse Now (1979) especially the helicopter sequence and the stone features of the native village. But setting the story in 1973 is a good excuse for a great 70’s soundtrack including David Bowie, Black Sabbath and Creedence Clearwater Revival to name but a few artists.
The film moves along at a good pace and has a few ‘edge of your seat’ moments. The title character, Kong is more of a guardian of the island and its inhabitants, except of course any pesky intruders that turn up uninvited.
Actor and performance capture artist Toby Kebbell really brings Kong to life as a tougher and more physical Kong, as well as playing one of the expedition characters, Captain Jack Chapman.
The bigger danger for our ‘Band of Brothers’ comes from the Skull Crawlers, which are large legless lizard type creatures which leads to an exciting battle in a large gorilla graveyard.
Jacksons character still thinks he is in Nam and wants to wipe out anyone or anything that gets in his way. There is also the expendable ‘red shirt’ soldiers as to be expected. Hiddleston does well as an action hero but is really there as eye candy and it could have been any current in vogue movie star such as Tom Hardy or Jake Gyllenhaal.
Hiddlestone’s, James Conrad character (a reference to Joseph Conrad ‘Heart of Darkness?) is lacking in humour but this is more than made up for by the inclusion of an American pilot Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) who has been marooned on the island for 28 years and survived by befriended the local native community. Reilly has some great one liners and there are some real laugh out loud moments such as the naming of the creatures. This is what the Peter Jackson film could have done with.
Brie Larson’s character Mason Weaver, is more of an action girl rather than a screamer as in the original King Kong and this new Kong has more of a curious fascination for Weaver which is as far as it goes. Therefore, the tempo doesn’t get bogged down with a primate / human love story.
This is an old-fashioned adventure movie and I do love it when you enter the cinema not expecting too much and come out feeling entertained.
Still showing in cinemas now