If you plan to buy some popcorn, please heed my warning and hold onto it tightly, because you will jump out of your skin every 10 seconds. Kong: Skull Island is blockbuster entertainment at its finest. It’s funny, visually enthralling and epic. The film should be used a basic blueprint for future blockbusters. That’s not to say they should all feature a giant ape, but they should certainly be as entertaining as this King Kong reboot. The word ‘epic’ is carelessly thrown around these days. It has been watered down to mean nothing more than ‘great’ or ‘out of the ordinary’. When I refer to the film as being epic, I mean it in the true sense of the word, not in the way a teenager would describe a house party. Unless it rivalled Project X, your house party was not epic, it was merely very good.
It’s set in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War. Government official Bill Randa (John Goodman) and his right-hand man, geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) set out to explore Skull Island, one of the last uncharted areas on earth. They enlist the help of former SAS agent Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and a team of soldiers- led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel.L Jackson) -to keep them safe. What they fail to tell their escorts is that they’re headed to an island inhabited by a one hundred-foot ape, more commonly known to us as Kong (why they dropped the ‘King’ off his name still remains a mystery). After Kong snaps their helicopters apart like Kit-Kat’s, the team are forced to try and survive on the lethal island until their resupply arrives- which won’t be for another three days. They soon discover that the island is home to all kinds of giant, deadly creatures, many of which enjoy the taste of human flesh.
The film is perfect in length, as are its action sequences. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts doesn’t speed through them; if anything he slows their pace down, allowing you to take in all their goriness. It would have been nice to see a touch more 3D action during these scenes, a tail or fist swinging at me once or twice wouldn’t have gone amiss. Although equally, I’m pleased objects weren’t flying at me every five minutes, just for the sake of calling the film 3D. Perhaps the film should have been renamed Monstrous Beasts: Skull Island, because the monsters seem to take up more screen-time than the cast and Kong combined. As a result, not all the cast get time to shine, with some simply lingering in the background. Even Brie Larson who has a main role playing Mason, a photo journalist, doesn’t do much aside from snap pictures. John C.Reilly is hilariously nutty and Samuel L. Jackson is his usual brilliant self, although he’s oddly calm for the most part. Sorry Samuel lovers, there aren’t any classic Deep Blue Water style monologues in this film.
The story pays its respects to the 1933 original but it is safe to say Kong: Skull Island is a reboot and not a remake of the film. Aside from the famous ‘jaw snapping’ scene, for the most part, the original King Kong and its following remakes spared us the violence, this film…not so much. It’s certainly not for the squeamish. Given the 12A rating, the violence isn’t off the scale, but I wouldn’t label it ‘child friendly’.Kong seems to have tripled in size since the last remake. He towers over the Skull Island mountains, and bats helicopters out the sky like he’s playing for the Dodgers. According to the film he still has more growing to do; this is presumably said as he’ll be even bigger when he fights Godzilla in the upcoming Godzilla vs. King Kong. Although Godzilla’s name is never actually mentioned, the film does drop some not-so-subtle hints about the 2020 sequel- quick tip for you all: don’t leave the cinema screen until after the credits finish rolling.
Like the 1976 remake, the reboot tries to offer something deeper than just explosions and giant beasts. The argument of ‘the necessity of war’ is raised. Understandable given the year it’s set in, but the screenplay isn’t biting enough to make this argument hit home and the words resonate. I didn’t leave the cinema questioning the necessity of war, I left thinking about the film’s entertainment value and having to tackle the ever confusing Northern Line to get myself back home.