Kong: Skull Island
Set in the early ’70s, a US-backed expedition is sent to Skull Island to chart this isolated location

KONG: SKULL ISLAND. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, with Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary. Written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein.

REVIEW: Paul Blom

I’ve always been averse to the King Kong premise: man invading the domain of a fantastic unique species and in attempting to exploit it, destroys it. So, I went into this (yet another) retake on the King Kong movie canon with trepidation. (Can you believe it has been 12 years since Peter Jackson’s blockbuster remake?)

But while not without its flaws, this one attempts to add a bit of a different take and ended up being an entertaining action-packed spectacle (slotted into recent history). Set in the early ’70s at the tail-end of America pulling out of the Vietnam war, a US government-backed Pacific expedition is sent to Skull Island to chart this isolated location (being surrounded by an intense weather pattern making it impossible for the outside world to access). Led by the secret government Monarch agency, they recruit a Vietnam combat squadron to punch through the weather with helicopters. On arrival they drop seismic bombs, which brings Kong out to beat the shit out of their helicopters, most of the soldiers dying in the crazy mayhem.

Kong: Skull Island
Kong isn’t the vicious enemy he first appears to be

Naturally the truth is revealed about the “study”, but the survivors are stranded and soon discover the many dangers this island holds, leading to many thrills, spills and encounters with enormous creatures.

The key characters include Goodman as the man instigating the expedition, Hiddleston is the hired tracking expert and balanced voice of reason, Jackson the unhinged Vietnam vet who just wants to destroy, Larson as the photographer tagging along to document it all, and Reilly as the WWII pilot who’s been stranded on the island for decades (also adding some humour). But, the main character is of course Kong, brilliantly brought to life with ever-advancing CGI.

Not such a bad guy

While a destructive force to be reckoned with, Kong isn’t the vicious enemy he first appears to be as his purpose, intelligence and compassion are unveiled, and while one half realises this, Jackson’s character is hell bent on killing Kong (being responsible for the death of his men in the giant ape’s spectacular helicopter confrontation).

Even though Brie Larson won an Oscar for Room, here she is the least emotive, most dead-pan, boring A-list actress I’ve seen all year! It doesn’t look like she wanted to be there. I could’ve played it, and wouldn’t even need a wig…

Sadly, her solitary female character amid the male-dominated cast does very little in terms of gender representation and doesn’t contribute much to the narrative (besides the suggestion that she’s there to represent truth through photo-journalism – in essence she’s a damsel in distress making for some “connection” moments with Kong). The writers really missed an opportunity to pen a female role of substance.

Like Godzilla, there is some environmentally-motivated commentary built into the story.

Where crappy ’80s movies like King Kong Lives were a cheap cash-in, not much expense was spared for both the cast and the visuals for Kong: Skull Island, and the music is pretty cool  – kick-ass ’70s (and ’60s) rock songs from classic acts like Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Black Sabbath, The Hollies, David Bowie, The Stooges, and that classic war era song We’ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn(who recently turned 100 and released an album as the oldest person to do so!)

The score was composed by Henry Jackman.

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