‘Kong’s God on the island but the devils live below us.’
Still from imdb.com, ©Warner Bros.
After Jackson’s attempt to reboot the Kong franchise in 2005, I was somewhat sceptical about this latest installment in the cohort. However, I can say that I was pleasantly and happily proven wrong. Then, when I went to see Vogt-Roberts’s ‘Kong: Skull Island’ not too long ago, I realised rather quickly that writing any form of review that didn’t reveal too much about the action would be difficult. Thankfully, the trailers released prior to the premier has given us all that we need to work with: it’s a large scale monster movie, with a large scale simian, with large scale enemies, and the action is, well… on a large scale! There are a whole host of star names in this film, but with mixed acting success. Some characters zing, others are somewhat bland- stock characters that are never developed beyond their introduction sketch.
So, how to go about writing a review without SPOILERS, but with sufficient detail to whet appetites? I’ve landed on a series of vagueries that will, hopefully, sum up the experience of the feature without going into the complexities and details that make up this delightfully convoluted film.
So, The Good:
- CGI and special effects: this is a beautiful film. From the sweeping landscapes, to the epic, pacific scenery shrouded in cloud, to that vivid orange Sunscape that dazzles spectators into stupefied awe– there is very little in the execution of this film that doesn’t make you think “Wow”. Sure, we all know that this is a digitally-saturated film, but in a film such as this, that’s hardly a fault.
- The accents of War Epics past: you’ll easily be able to recognise the accents of Apocalypse Now in this feature, and within these conventions there is set out the narrative of action, conflict and revenge.
- John C Reilly. He brings such deceptive depth to this film with his character arc: those hesitant to see this film because of the somewhat cliched of Reilly’s filmography need not worry. When he needs to be humorous, he’s humorous but never wallowing in “Zaney”. When he needs to be quiet, the sincerity of his character gives moment for pause.
- The creatures! My goodness, from the first moment our Primate Pal looms into shot, the audience is left with no doubt as to who the real star of this film is. Here’s a hint: it’s the eponymous one. Whether it’s Shelob’s skinny cousin, or a water buffalo the size of a UPS van, or even an odd form of pteranodon, these creatures dominate the screen, successfully making the humans onscreen wither away into insignificance.
- Speaking of those pteranodons, this is where the film falls down. One moment in a scene of high-octane, explosive action (literally) blends the action of Blade with the execution of Snyder’s ‘300’. It’s viscous, slow-motion and frankly tacky: they could quite easily have dialled this sequence back a few notches without sacrificing the fun of the action.
- Plot holes: there are several times during this film that leave you wondering “Umm.. nope, can we fill in that backstory, please?” That being said, these are never screamingly evident, and so don’t tend to wrinkle the viewing experience.
- Flat character types: whereas some of the characters are deliciously developed, two of the central Star Names are written with little emotional depth and so cannot elevate beyond stock character tropes. This isn’t the fault of the actors, you understand, but the unfortunate writing. Pity.
- One name needed: Samuel L Jackson. Jackson brings the wrath of countless avenging angels into this film, possessed with the same world weary and sarcastic fury that we all know and love. He even manages to keep his foul-mouthed stereotyping at bay, with a singular, mild cuss three-quarters of the way through the film. His is a character that is an amalgamation of all of the cliches we know from his iconic roles, but adds a fresh tone of genuinely pathetic resilience that is at once his greatest strength and his greatest fault.
- Kong likes sashimi, in fact, he’s something of a connoisseur. That’s all you’re getting there.
- Most of the action sequences involving Reilly and the unit of soldiers on Skull Island have that perfect balance between outright comedy and pithy tragedy. There are streaks of Cast Away in Reilly’s humour, but the strain of isolation takes its toll and inevitably bubbles up in moments of hysteria, keeping you on your toes.
Still from imdb.com, ©Warner Bros.
Conclusion? ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is a fun film with a LOT of good going on within it. It’s by no means perfect, but this is one of those movies that certainly stands head and shoulders above others in its category.
‘Kong: Skull Island'(12A) is in UK cinemas now.