Kong: Skull Island


★★★

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts Starring Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly

Film Review by Kieran Freemantle


Kong: Skull Island, or as it should be known as "Kong: the 'Nam Years". King Kong, the giant ape is back on the big screen, the first time since Peter Jackson's 2005 remake and the first film intending to start a series. In 1973 a secret American government organisation known as Monarch receive satellites photos of an undiscovered and unexplored island in the Pacific. With government funds and backing, Bill Randa (John Goodman) starts up an expedition and recruits a team, including expert tracker/former SAS soldier James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) an army officer looking for one last piece of glory and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who senses a big story. When the expedition arrives they are attacked by Kong and the survivors are spread across the island. Yet it is not Kong that they should fear. Kong: Skull Island is the latest film from Legendary Entertainment whose credits include The Dark Knight Trilogy as well as most of Christopher Nolan's filmography, Pacific Rim and 2014's Godzilla remake. Anyone who follows film news will know that Legendary has some big plans for the King Kong property, but for the less knowledgeable it will not be spoiled here: just stick around for the post-credit scene. The experience of Godzilla looms large over Kong: Skull Island. The 2014 film was criticised for being too serious and po-faced and having very little of its title character: but it worked as a modern disaster movie and was still an enjoyable film allowing Gareth Edwards to have his first big budget gig. Kong: Skull Island goes for a lighter approach, having more jokes in the form of character actions and the editing. There is much more self-awareness in "Kong" than there was in Godzilla.


Watch the official Movie Trailer above.

Kong: Skull Island also was bigger in the action stakes, giving audiences lots of the big battles that audiences would want. It doesn't disappoint. If Godzilla was the monster version of a disaster movie, than "Kong" is a war movie, proudly wearing its Vietnam War movie influences on its sleeve - particularly Apocalypse Now and Platoon. Kong: Skull Island is Jordan Vogt-Roberts' second feature film as a director and his first blockbuster and shows competence with the action sequences - whether it's the first encounter between the army in helicopters and Kong to Kong fighting various giant beasts. Vogt-Roberts was particular fond of a stylised slo-mo approach, similar to Zack Snyder - which I am a sucker for. Vogt-Roberts was properly helped by his cinematographer, Larry Fong who has worked on many of Snyder's films. However, the 3D effects are not worth the money. Although the action was impressive Kong: Skull Island had a big disadvantage: it comes in the shadow of the 1933 classic and Peter Jackson solid remake. Godzilla only had to worry about the 1954 origins which it honoured. Some of the big sequences are not much different to the 2005 version - having scenes like when Kong fights two dinosaur-like creatures and the soldiers getting attacked by a giant spider. The film is incredibly gory for a 12A and pushes the rating to its limit. Certain scenes were similar to Jurassic World with both having a scene known for their cruelty. Kong: Skull Island has an all-star cast: besides from those already mentioned, the film includes Toby Kebbell, John C. Reilly, Straight Outta Compton stars Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell as well as recognisable actors like Shea Whingham (Boardwalk Empire) and Thomas Mann (Project X). Although "Kong" has a great cast most of the roles are stock characters and it is a paycheque movie for them. Hiddleston is essentially auditioning for the Bond role and Larsson is capitalising on her Oscar win: both are given token attempts of characterisation - especially Hiddleston. Jackson plays up on his stage persona, especially in the latter half of the film. The most memorable member of the cast was Whigham as Cole - a slightly deranged soldier and he formed a decent double act with Mitchell. Other actors weren't so lucky. Hawkins' role can be summed up in three words: "nerdy black guy" and Jing Tian was given the token Asian chick role so that the film could be marketed to Chinese audiences. No one gave a bad performance but they were all given underwritten roles. Kong: Skull Island is big and silly and that is to be expected. It is a blast from an action standpoint, which the kid inside all of us will gleefully enjoy but it lacks the substance that other action offerings i.e. Logan.

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