Kong: Skull Island

 

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Although this reboot of the King Kong franchise looks terrific, the real thrills are thin on the ground.

 
Kong: Skull Island

Halitosis attack: Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson

 

In 1973, the US Army began to withdraw its troops from Vietnam. At about the same time, American International Pictures was prepping a movie called The Land That Time Forgot. This serendipity would have been lost on Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a battle-hardened soldier who, in his own head, has not finished with fighting the Viet-Cong. Then he gets a call from a government agent (John Goodman) to escort a gaggle of explorers to an unchartered island in the South Pacific, an ecosystem protected from the outside world by a unique meteorological anomaly. Along with a former SAS soldier (Tom Hiddleston) and a photojournalist (Brie Larson), Packard ushers a force of thirteen helicopters to a land that, indeed, time had forgot. And the Kong he encounters is considerably more fearsome than the Cong he fought in Vietnam.

 

No doubt aimed at the audience that lapped up Jurassic World (worldwide gross: $1.7 billion), this reboot of the King Kong franchise definitely ups the ante. Here, we not only have Kong but a whole slew of humongous critters with very inventive ways of destroying their prey. But whereas the Jurassic Park series was largely based on scientific logic, Kong: Skull Island expects its viewers to take a leap of faith. These monsters are strictly make-believe creations (besides Kong, of course, who is a very big gorilla) and we have to accept that they were around in 1973, albeit hidden behind a huge bank of clouds. The human element is also a problem: besides John C. Reilly’s amiable pilot, there’s not really a sympathetic character in sight. Even the Oscar-winning Brie Larson, standing in for Fay Wray, fails to engage our emotions, although she’s given a couple of nice one-liners. And the same goes for Tom Hiddleston, whose natural charisma is not allowed to breathe. Consequently, the film is deprived of any opportunity for suspense or emotional involvement.

 

The real star of the film is the director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who has a good eye for a muscular image and keeps things at an entertaining level. And although the film looks terrific, the soundtrack lets the side down. The vocal emanations of the monsters are oh-so derivative and you’d think that the US Army was obsessed with Creedence Clearwater Revival. No doubt there will be fans, although they’ll have to wait three years for the projected sequel. Meanwhile, there’s always the monster movie Colossal, which opens in the UK in May.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, John Ortiz, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Richard Jenkins.

 

Dir Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Pro Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent and Alex Garcia, Screenplay Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein, Ph Larry Fong, Pro Des Stefan Dechant, Ed Richard Pearson, Music Henry Jackman, Costumes Mary E. Vogt.

 

Legendary Pictures/Tencent Pictures-Warner Brothers.

118 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 9 March 2017. Cert. 12A.