Kong: Skull Island is normally the kind of films that would shown up on the big screen in the summer, but has actually come at a welcome time for parents of young children. Their offspring will have been looking forward to Hugh Jackman’s latest Wolverine outing in Logan, but they can’t watch it in the cinema because it’s a very adult 15-certificate movie. So, what to see instead now The Lego Batman Movie has largely come and gone? Step forward Kong, the king of the jungle.
Starting off with a 1944-set scene where Kong gets an early ‘hello’, which gives it a one-up on 2014’s Godzilla where Gareth Edwards left us waiting forever for him to turn up, as well as 2015’s Jurassic World which didn’t have half the amount of big laughs this actioner does, the scene then fast-forwards to 1973 where scientist John Goodman wants a senator (Six Feet Under‘s Richard Jenkins) to give him the funding to investigate the island, it’s also set while Nixon is still the President, giving our lead a nice line, “Mark my words, there’ll never be a more screwed-up time in Washington.”
He wants to set off seismic charges to map the terrain of Skull Island – “The place God didn’t finish creating”. They’re joined by tracker Tom Hiddleston, ambitious journalist Brie Larson (so you’re just waiting for a potential budding romance to begin, but thafully, they steer clear of that trope), and an army team to escort them including Toby Kebbell – who wants to get home and see his son, old timer Shea Whigham (well, he’s not that much older than me, but in army terms…) and they’re led by grumpy Samuel L Jackson, who just wants to blow the ape off the planet.
Originally due to be titled simply “Skull Island” – presumably until Hollywood realised no-one would work out who the main star of the film was, Kong: Skull Island is predictable down to the last frame, but you’re here for the creature-feature fun. The CGI works well – especially as it allows time to linger on Kong and co. rather than the fast-cutting certain directors go for, and it even brings to mind films like Doug McClure’s The Land That Time Forgot, as prehistoric-style creatures smack each other into next week.
Jing Tian (below) proves that, once again, Asian women are the hottest in the world, but sadly her character gets nothing more to do than be the token Asian girl. She’s along for the ride as a geologist expert… I think, but that doesn’t really matter since once it all kicks off and becomes a mission for survival, that aspect goes out that window. Another problem is that she and Ms Larson are the only two main female characters in the film, so whenever a woman is required to take the lead, only Brie gets a look-in. This MUST be addressed in any potential sequel.
In addition, there’s precious little in the way of characterisation. I needn’t bother giving the names of the characters as everyone’s precisely as you’d normally expect: Despite Hiddleston being great in The Night Manager, and Goodman being outstanding in 10 Cloverfield Lane, here everyone just does the necessary; Jackson has a favourite word he likes to use in almost every film, but as this one is a 12-cert, he only gets to say ‘mother’ before being interrupted; Kebbell, while not onscreen a huge amount as army type Jack Chapman – since he gets separated from everyone else, also doubles up as Kong, himself – getting in on the motion capture as he did in 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as Koba; and John C Reilly is an oddball fellow who got stuck on the island some time ago.
However, credit also goes to director Jordan Vogt-Roberts for some superb shots, including the early encounter when they arrive on his patch and he downs as many of their choppers as he can, usually with his fists smashing into them, but sometimes by grabbing their tails and swinging them around, leading to an in-chopper camera shot which is quite breathtaking.
1973 brings some great tunes (eg. Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit, Black Sabbath – Paranoid, David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust), but it’s a time when there’s still ill-feeling about the war in Vietnam. It’s also a time that the film and TV industry love, since Life on Mars was set in this year, as was X-Men: Days of Future Past, and – obviously – Prime Suspect 1973.
This film is available in both 2D and 3D. I saw it in 2D and didn’t feel I was missing out. There are a few times when things are thrown towards the screen, but the rest of the time you get the depth from the sense of scale of everything onscreen, and there are plenty of scenes which do not make use of 3D in any way, so it really is just a gimmick for this one.
And the end credits also include the usual words – “No animals were harmed.” 😉
As for my usual end credit adventures, I’m waiting on a reply from Head Office after my last one where all the lights came in in Logan and The Lego Batman Movie, so news will come as soon as I know. This time round, the lights were up annoyingly big-time bright as per those last two films, so the positive experiences I had during Split and T2 Trainspotting are just a distant memory.
But as the credit begin, you must STAY! I’ll wrap a spoiler heading round the following, which details what’s within the post-credits scene… (which the bright lights also ruined!)
Book tickets for Kong: Skull Island at Vue Cinemas.
Running time: 118 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros
Cinema: Vue, Lowry, Salford Quays
Format: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Released: March 10th 2017
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Producers: Alex Garcia, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent and Thomas Tull
Screenplay: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly
Music: Henry Jackman
James Conrad: Tom Hiddleston
Preston Packard: Samuel L Jackson
Mason Weaver: Brie Larson
Hank Marlow: John C Reilly
Bill Randa: John Goodman
Houston Brooks: Corey Hawkins
Victor Nieves: John Ortiz
San: Jing Tian
Jack Chapman/Kong: Toby Kebbell
Mills: Jason Mitchell
Cole: Shea Whigham
Slivko: Thomas Mann
Reles: Eugene Cordero
Landsat Steve: Marc Evan Jackson
Young Marlow / Marlow’s Son: Will Brittain
Gunpei Ikari: Miyavi
Senator Willis: Richard Jenkins
Secretary O’Brien: Allyn Rachel
Athena Captain: Robert Taylor
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.