Usually you would know exactly what to expect from a King Kong movie. A man, a girl, a giant gorilla (ape? Monkey?), some buildings, New York etc, etc. However, this time we’ve a bit of a curveball as they take us to Kong’s own island. We’re on his turf this time round and things are big, very big.
Kong: Skull Island (or just Kong from now on) is about a bunch of scientists and army soldiers who, just as the Vietnam war ends, head to an uncharted island. Other than the person who has charted this expedition, everyone else believes they’re just going along to see an island no-one else has seen before. A few people know the true reason.
John Goodman (Monsters Inc, 10 Cloverfield Lane) plays Bill Randa, the man taking people who probably wouldn’t go if they knew what was there. Alongside him is Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, No-Stop) as Houston Brooks, another scientist. They decide they’re going to need some help on this island so find ex-SAS soldier James Conrad, played by Tom Hiddleston (Thor, The Night Manager).
This still isn’t enough people to go to an island though and so they get a military escort there in the form of Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, XXX: Return of Xander Cage) and his fellow cronies that include Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Fantastic Four), who also plays Kong.
Once on the island, pretty much straight away, we’re introduced to Kong. He’s a lot bigger than we’ve seen him previously and goes on a bit of a rampage from the get-go. Some soldiers die and the group gets split up. This p*sses Jackson off no-end and he vows to take revenge on the giant gorilla.
Meanwhile Hiddleston, Randa and photographer Brie Larson (Room, 21 Jump Street) and Tian Jing (The Great Wall, Police Story: Lockdown) (these latter two seemingly only here it so it’s not just a film full of men, particularly Jing who I think has three lines throughout) find there are some locals on the island including a stranded WW2 fighter pilot in the shape of John C. Reilly (Wreck-It Ralph, Step Brothers).
It’s when Reilly enters the movie that it starts to get good. He’s the best thing in it by a country mile, which should give you some indication of the quality we’re talking about here.
Whilst there’s plenty of action in Kong, it’s at the expense of any kind of plot, or character development, or anything else really. The action is good though as is the directing from Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer, Mash Up) and the sets and CGI are wonderful.
If it wasn’t for the cast of A-listers that they’ve managed to pull together, Kong would have sunk without trace. In fact, this is the sort of film I could imagine The Asylum turning out (they of Sharknado fame) – giant monsters, lots of running around and firing guns.
Having said there’s no plot the writers, Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Real Steel), Max Borenstein (Godzilla, Minority Report) and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World, Safety Not Guaranteed), do attempt to shoehorn some kind of message in there.
It’s nothing we’ve not seen done before mind, or done better, but it’s one of the army invading, not listening to those on the ground who know best – there’s a scene when Reilly says “I’ve only been here 28 years but what do I know” – and targeting the wrong enemy. The Vietnam war gets around one line of commentary.
The films not bad, it’s not good either. It (obviously) sets us up for a follow up (hang around for the credits to end to see that), which they try to make look a little more serious. Which is potentially a shame, as the best thing about Kong is the funny moments brought by Reilly.