Kong: Skull Island is a 2017 American Kaiju film. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kings of Summer) the film stars Tom Hiddleston (High Rise), Brie Larson (Room), John C. Reilly (Stepbrothers), Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane) and John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane). The film is part of Legendary pictures continued “Monsterverse”.
The film is set in the early 70s against the dying days of the Vietnam war as Monarch operative Randa (Goodman) attempts to get an expedition together in order to visit the mysterious Skull Island. Joined by Mercenary James Conrad (Hiddleston), photographer Mason Weaver (Larson) and Colonel Packard (Jackson), the team soon discover that Skull Island is far from uninhabited as the giant ape lays waste to their squad of helicopters. Stumbling upon castaway Hank Marlow (Reilly), we soon learn that Kong is the protector of the island and that the subterranean “Skullcrawlers” pose a far greater threat. The team must survive the horrors of Skull Island and escape, as Kong does battle with a jumbo Skullcrawler, in order to tell the rest of the world about these gigantic new creatures.
Skull Island has long been pitched as King Kong (1933) meets Apocalypse Now (1978), which is a pretty bold claim considering those are two of the greatest films ever made, and, on this promise, it delivers in spades. Vogt-Roberts is clearly well versed in both these films, as well as kaiju and war movies in general, and does a fantastic job in creating this fresh take on a modern monster movie. The direction and visual set ups are eye watering as, locations wise, we’re taken on a world tour of Vietnam, Hawaii and Australia and the visual effects, as with Godzilla, blend seamlessly into the world. The design of Kong is a welcome return to the classic bipedal character, with Peter Jackson’s anatomically correct character now a distant memory, and the King has been massively scaled up so that he can do battle with the other King in 2020.
The pacing is perfect, as the film wastes little time getting our protagonists onto the island, and the cast is strong despite a wasted John Goodman and a woefully miscast Tom Hiddleston as an action hero (Kurt Russell, he is not!). I particularly enjoyed Jackson’s turn as the Colonel Kurtz-esque Packard, he just made it through a war, he’s not about to let a damn dirty ape trample all over him! My immediate concern when I first saw the trailer was that John C. Reilly was there to provide ill-advised humour and, although his character has unexpected depths, I felt that a lot of the attempts at comic relief still fell flat on their face. However, for every human character that was in danger of becoming irritating, there were more than enough creatures on display to marvel at including a giant Octopus, Spider, water Buffalo and, of course, the sinister Skullcrawlers (themselves actually based on a briefly glimpsed creature in the original King Kong).
Much like 2014’s Godzilla, the film isn’t perfect but it does exactly what it needs to do, it brings these beloved characters back to life and sets them in new and vivid adventures for Kaiju fans, old and new, to enjoy. The philosophy of enlisting Vogt-Roberts is clearly the same as Gareth Edwards, these are technically exceptional directors with a passion and nerdom that we can all respect and relate to. See it on the big screen at least once to maximise your adventure to Skull Island, and don’t forget to stay for the post credits sequence. There’s never been a better time to be a kaiju fan!
***** 5 Stars
What did you think of the film? Did you like the Vietnam war setting?