Kong meets Apocalypse Now in a 70’s re-boot with all the logic of a Japanese ’60’s kaiju movie. Go to Vietnam; leave Vietnam; go to island; meet Kong, fight giant cave lizards, do not leave island, do not go to New York, do not kill the ape. At least Kong is a ‘real’ ape with proper fur – cast of Cats take note.
Vietnam 1974: embittered US army officer Samuel L. Jackson volunteers his unit for one more covert mission before de-mob; escorting John Goodman‘s science team to an uncharted pacific island in search of some sciencey-wiencey MacCguffin.
Imagine Robert Duval’s chopper assualt team got ambushed by a sixty-foot gorilla (not guerilla) in Apocalypse Now. Well, you don’t have to because that’s what happens. The stranded remnants of the party have to trek across the island to rendezvous with their ship, guided by Tom Hiddleston‘s SAS ‘tracker’, James Conrad (thud), using photo-journalist Brie Larson‘s Moral Compass.
Along the way they encounter John C Riley’s marooned WWII airman, the mystical islanders in their Shang-gri-la village, aforesaid giant cave lizards, and Jackson’s monstrous ego as he turns into Joseph Conrad’s Mista Kurtz.
Jackson and Goodman stand out from an under-developed cast, while Riley’s expansive, unhinged, tragi-comic Ben Gunn from Treasure Island schtick gets wearing after maybe five minutes. Hiddleston and Larson are criminally underused as the plot resolutely grinds through the pages of the script.
By the time the survivors take to the river on a lashed-up boat, in tribute to Apocalypse Then, we’ve had enough of both the Vietnam thing and the wonky giant cave lizards.
Kong himself is a CGI, triumph – mo-cap’d by Terry Notary – and the best ‘character’ in this; a fine, broody, male action lead, striding about his island, all fur and muscle and swagger, a Clint Eastwood scowl on his magnificently ugly face. And since this is the 21st century, Larson is absolutely not going to be a screaming damsel in distress and Kong does not become a simpering jelly for a pretty face; so we lose the Beauty and the Beast romance.
Skull Island is, of course, all empty spectacle, with some fine action set pieces and a lot of blowing s* up. Acknowledging that Kong is the lead, and shouldn’t be killed off for the shot at a franchise, the whole thing just hangs in pleas for a sequel that nobody needs. RC
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writers: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fanstasy
Running time: 118 minutes
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, Tian Jing, John Ortiz, Terry Notary, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins