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In 1973 an exploratory expedition in the south Pacific encounters a mysterious island shrouded in turbulent storms. Upon arrival, the scientists discover a jungle paradise filled with deadly creatures, gigantic beasts and the king of them all, Kong!
Since 1933, the legend of King Kong has graced the silver screen numerous times. From the classic stylings of the original to the maligned 1976 version and Peter Jackson’s bloated 2005 effort, while the gargantuan ape is one of cinema’s most memorable icons, even the most celebrated of filmmakers have struggled to do Kong any justice. Legendary Picture’s 2014 Godzilla flick paved the way for what will be a shared universe in the mould of the Toho movies of the 60s. Luckily we’ve moved beyond watching stunt men in monster costumes, tearing through cardboard cityscapes, and Gareth Edwards’ creature feature proved that the modern audience is ready for these towering terrors to digitally duke it out.
The first thing that struck me with Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ film was the gorgeous visual aesthetic. From the very first encounter with Kong, to his hulking silhouette across a setting sun, the sense of scale is immense. A hairy titan in the luscious greenery of the titular Skull Island, he poses an imposing form and leaves a lasting impression. From his initial reaction to the military presence onward he his portrayed as the lone protector and king of all he surveys.
While both Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson act as the primary protagonists, their characters are resoundingly vanilla. It is the supporting cast (for the most part) who add a much-needed dynamism to their interactions. John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann seemingly know the kind of popcorn fodder they’re involved in and we as the audience are most definitely along for the ride.
And what a ride. It’s safe to say, Kong: Skull Island has shaken 2017’s blockbuster season to life with a mighty roar. The audio design, cacophonous score and killer 70s soundtrack set the tone in a thunderous fashion. Not as po-faced as 2014’s Godzilla, there’s definitely more of a sense of “fun” and wide-eyed adventure. It’s extremely silly in places and humorously gory in others, which breaks up the action set pieces. One minute you might by marvelling at weird creatures, the next, wincing as characters get viciously beaten, burned, eaten and plucked apart by the island’s ferocious wildlife. It’s gleefully destructive and makes no bones about revelling in the spectacle of it all.
After the trailers had failed to pin down the tone of the movie, I was surprised at how much I became emotionally invested in the crackpot character played by John C. Reilly. There’s a little more too his jester-like affectations and the contrast between he and Samuel L. Jackson’s Ahab’esque Lieutenant Colonel is an engaging one.
Overall, I enjoyed Kong: Skull Island for the sheer, dumb fun of it. The screenplay isn’t going to win any awards but this is most certainly an unabashed B-movie with an A-movie budget. If you’re interested in seeing how the Legendary Pictures franchises converge, stay till after the credits for a not-so-subtle set up for 2020’s Godzilla Vs Kong which will hit our screens a year after Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019.
Kong: Skull Island launches March 9th in the UK