Starring: Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
I remember being a little kid and my Dad putting on the original King Kong from the 30’s to watch with me and my brother. There are certain scenes of that film that remain embedded in my mind, but the key thing for me was always that the gorilla is mistaken for a monster, when he’s actually a beautiful, empathetic creature. His destruction left me in tears.
Watching it now, the film still gets to me, though I find the dinky effects quite quaint. It was a film that spawned remakes and spin offs, but for me, the tragic figure of Kong is a sympathetic one.
If you’re a fan of Kong, either the big ape himself or the kind of giant creature movies that he’s a part of, you might have been looking forward to this film, Kong: Skull Island, a 70’s Vietnam era set adventure into a hidden island to seek out the weird and wonderful.
Of course, the explorers and their military escort soon realise they have bitten off more than they can chew, and are gleefully picked off one by one, as they are split into two parties. The first is the nice guys, the anti-war photographer (Larson), the “tracker” (Hiddleston), and a castaway on the island (Reilly) and a bunch of others. Then there are the bad guys, led by Preston Packard (Jackson) who are looking for revenge on the giant gorilla, whether logic demands it or not.
In this story, Kong is a protector of the locals from other, more dangerous wildlife, most especially a cave dwelling, two legged lizards with skulls for heads. So he’s a good guy, but misunderstood by the military who don’t understand him.
It’s a fine idea, but really, there just isn’t enough King Kong in this film for me. He’s the best bit, and it feels like he’s barely in it. There’s a great sequence at the start where he rips helicopters out of the sky when they drop bombs on the island for no good reason. But it feels like the film wants to be about the cast and their predicament, as they get picked off one by one, like David Attenborough meets Jurassic Park. And yet, the script is clunky, and actors feel like posers and one liner delivery machines, and it’s all rather dull when it’s focused on them, which leaves it feeling cheesey, and a bunch of cobbled together action sequences.
But those sequences are what’s great about this film. The creature design is really something. Prehistoric-like animals hide in the landscape beautifully, only revealing themselves to surprise us and the “tourists”. The design is beautiful, often surprising, and very creative. And the deaths soon rack up as the creatures decide it’s time for lunch. The scenes with the people who live in the island are also beautiful, with some great art work, and perhaps could have been an interesting area of narrative exploration.
But is this enough to save the film? Not really. It’s trying very hard to reference Apocalypse Now in places, which amused me, but that is a far better film. This one is 70’s soundtracked and CGI heavy, but at the end, it’s lacking heart and tension, just a string of good set pieces and design. And not enough Kong. However, the Hollywood rumour is that this is all to set up a franchise that can lead to a Godzilla crossover, and who doesn’t love a good kaiju battle?
See It If: fun but rather vacant, the direlogue will have you cringing, but the creature design and general destruction is great. Light on the big gorilla though.