An iconic, gigantic hirsute protagonist enjoys a playful reincarnation, with an island full of mammoth monsters and just enough Samuel L Jackson to make it fun.
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At the end of WWII, two planes crash onto an island. One American soldier and one Japanese soldier find themselves stranded, believing each other to be their greatest threat. They soon discover this couldn’t be further from the truth, encountering the mighty Kong in all his glory.
Years later, as the Vietnam War comes to its conclusion, a Special Forces team is assigned to explore the island, as they hope to discover why so many ships have never returned from its shores and what mysteries it holds. The team is accompanied by photo journalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), and is led by Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson).
Getting to the island proves a challenge, with their helicopter landing team facing a terrible storm. Once on the island, though, the assortment of giant beasts inhabiting the place make the storm seem calm—and from giant spiders and ants to raptor-like creatures that emerge from the Earth’s core, Skull Island is not a place for the fainthearted, nor those seeking a long and peaceful retirement.
As the wayward soldiers battle the beasts, the team finds themselves turning to an unlikely ally, in the greatest beast of all—Kong. Initially believed to be their enemy, Kong proves to be their only hope of ever getting off the island alive.
Could Brie Larson have made a more unexpected choice for her first post-Oscar film? Probably not. But, in saying that, she gives the role as good a performance as one could hope, and manages to bring back to life the gentle relationship Kong has with a leading blonde in the litany of films that feature him.
Hiddleston is appropriately mannish; and John Goodman and Samuel L Jackson manage to do what they do so well, in abundance. Kong: Skull Island is a film that is best when it’s funny and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The scattering of whip-smart lines holds the dialogue together, and makes somewhat forgivable the sub-par narrative and farfetched plot premise.
As a monster film, it adheres to the genre conventions for all of 10 minutes—before providing a premature reveal, losing some of the suspense that could have been built by simply alluding to the magnitude of Kong. Perhaps we have become impatient as an audience and directors are no longer keen to hold back, but sadly I feel the film was poorer for its immediate unveiling of the myriad of monsters.
While it probably doesn’t sit high on the viewing list of many, it certainly is a light (if not a little bloody) way to disconnect for a few hours. Filmed in Queensland, it’s amusing to note that many of the cast admitted to being genuinely frightened by the creatures in their natural surrounds (even without a real ape). But, unlike the icon of Kong himself, this filmic incarnation, I suspect, will present only a fleeting attraction.
Director: Jordon Vogt-Roberts
Stars: Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John C Reilly
Runtime: 1hr 58 mins
Release Date: March 9
Rating: MA 15+
Reviewer Rating: 2.5/5