King Kong re-imagined as a horror-thriller adventure in Kong: Skull Island is fun, fanciful, clunky and inane, all at the same time. This is a world populated by massive dinosaur-like creatures, brought to the big screen by the producers of Godzilla.
The film tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut off from everything they know, the group ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primitive Garden of Eden, in which 20th century man does not belong.
This is not the King Kong of 1933 with Fay Wray as the damsel in distress, nor Peter Jackson’s 2005 epic. It is a different story entirely. It doesn’t have Kong’s defiant end from high atop the Empire State Building, one of the most iconic scenes of all time.
The producers brought in writers Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly to craft the screenplay from a story by John Gatins. They have chosen to explore the folklore of Skull Island, with the big ape never leaving his home. Most of it is set in 1973, the year the Vietnam War ended.
The key characters include Brie Larson (Room) as wartime photojournalist Mason Weaver and Tom Hiddleston (Avengers: Age of Ultron) as a former SAS soldier with on-the-ground smarts. Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight) is Lt. Colonel Preston Packard, the human alpha among the film’s characters, who has a shoot first policy that sits uneasily with his underlings and others in the party. He is the one-dimensional redneck. John Goodman (Argo) is cast as the man who, in the first place, is desperate to obtain government funding to finance the trip. You even have a long-lost castaway, in the form of John C. Reilly (Chicago), who plays Hank Marlow and has a good read on the island. Reilly is undoubtedly the one who is given greatest latitude and who has the most fun in the film, one moment off with the pixies and the next proving to be the voice of reason.
This is not a film with depth, so don’t expect Larson to channel the nuances of her character from Room. Rather she is this “hot” – in more ways that one – photographer, whose heart is in the right place. Hiddleston plays muscular and manly, and is also not stretched.
The biggest surprises come by way of the critters who populate this devil’s playground – they are big, mean and hungry, and can strike at any time. I also had some difficulty understand why so many choppers were needed and shown in the shooting of this film. They just kept coming and then one after another crashed and burned. Some of the dialogue is puerile and all but unnecessary, even if the characters had to say or do something, given they were on the screen. The direction, such that it is, comes from Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer). The production spanned three continents, with locations in Australia, Hawaii and Vietnam used.
Kong: Skull Island is a film that is easy to criticise and yet, as pure popcorn entertainment with big screen special effects, it should appeal to a young male audience, in particular. Quality entertainment it is not. Rated M, it scores a 6 out of 10.
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tian Jing, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson
Release Date: 9th March, 2017
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television