"This is his home, we're just guests. But you don't go into someone's house and start dropping bombs, unless you're picking a fight."
As the Vietnam War draws to a close a group of explorers, with the aid of a military escort, head off to a mysterious chain of islands in the Pacific in hope of making new scientific discovers. Upon arriving on the islands they discover a lot more than they bargained for.
Kong is quickly becoming the Spider-Man of monster movies, by that I mean not a decade can go by without a new remake/reboot/rehash of the familiar story gracing our screens for a whole new audience to revel in some giant monkey action. The original 1933 film is still a classic and holds up incredibly well for a film that is over 80 years old, the 70s remake with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange is a weird and unique beast and the 2005 Peter Jackson film, while some may find it tedious, does have its charm as it attempts to tell the story of Skull Island with as much blockbuster bravado as it can muster. That being said, this time around director Jordan Vogt-Roberts had an almost impossible task in front of him with this latest adaptation. While the film treads some familiar territory he manages to present a unique take on the story and infuses it with enough visual flair to separate it from pretty much every other monster movie or blockbuster you’re likely to see this year.
While the striking visuals may be enough to capture the hearts of some viewers, it’s the amazing cast that Roberts has managed to assemble that will truly captivate most moviegoers. Tom Hiddleston and recent Oscar winner Brie Larson could be considered the mains of the film however it is very much an ensemble piece, compiling an enormous cast littered with heavy hitters and an odd selection of comedians and character actors. Hiddleston and Larson are serviceable as a mercenary guiding the expedition and an anti-war photographer along for the ride although they're not giving enough character development or scenery to chew as some of the supporting cast. Speaking of chewing scenery, can we talk about Samuel L. Jackson for a second? I haven’t seen Jackson have this much fun with a role since “Django Unchained”, which coincidentally was the last time he played a “villain”. He seems to be relishing the opportunity to play a similar part again as he swings for the fences playing a military commander hell-bent on revenge against a giant ape delivering a performance that somehow miraculously contains shades of both Colonel Kurtz and Captain Willard. John C. Reilly and John Goodman lead the rest of the supporting cast delivering their usually loveable style of performance, helping set the tone for both the scientists and soldiers that round out the rest of the cast. Nobody plays it too serious, remembering at the end of the day it’s supposed to be fun (it is a monster movie after all).
The narrative of “Kong: Skull Island” is an original and unique take on the traditional story, with the post Vietnam setting adding an interesting flair to the proceedings. The story powers along at a brisk pace, continually throwing challenges at both the characters and the audience in an effort to keep surprising them. This works until the third act where things begin to drag somewhat with characters being systematically picked off and no new information or settings are revealed to us. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the back third of the film is where the majority of the action takes place causing story and character to take a backseat to action and spectacle.
While “Kong: Skull Island” may not be the most traditional and best monster movie it is definitely one of the most unique and that’s thanks in large part to it’s director. With a solid cast of brilliant actors all having fun with their roles and a visual style that is unlike anything the genre has encountered before, it’s a film that, I feel, will stand the test of time, possibly not as a major blockbuster but as a cult classic that will garner lots of love over the years to come.
7 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan