Magazine article Screen International

'Kong: Skull Island': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Kong: Skull Island': Review

Article excerpt

King Kong is reanimated in Jordan Vogt-Roberts' chest-thumper, a key commercial moment in the Legendary/Warner MonsterVerse franchise.

Dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts. US, 2017, 118 mins

The clue is the word 'MonsterVerse', the planned Legendary Entertainment/Warner Bros franchise which kicked offin 2014 with the Godzilla reboot. Kong: Skull Island may star Samuel L Jackson, Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson, but this Vietnam-set adventure is, in effect, a flimsy excuse for an Industrial Light and Magic CGI smackdown which revisits Kong's dinosaur battles from Peter Jackson's 2005 iteration and spins them out for just short of two hours..

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts marries a hokey retro plot with state-of-the-art technology, ripping pages out of Apocalypse Now and Platoon and planting them on the face of Jurassic Park for a 1971-set expedition undertaken by the US military and several hangers-on to Skull Island, King Kong's remote tropical home. But the feeling here is even more old-fashioned, harking back to the creature feature days of Black Lagoon, Tarantula, et al, the film's awkward humans being repeatedly thumped downstage by impressive effects.

Kong: Skull Island opens in cinemas globally from March 8 as final proof that Oscar season is well and truly over. While the unusual settings and the enhanced quality of the CGI eventually hoist King Kong and his opponents out of the tropical Vietnamese script swamp, this film will have to battle Kong fatigue domestically and focus on overseas markets to stave offthe continued threat of Logan and his X-Men Universe before being potentially flattened by the Beast from Beauty the following week. Tough times for a monster to make a living.

One wonders why, in all these universes - Marvel, X-Men, Monsters - there are so few good plots to be discovered. With its cursory set-up and characterisations and over-reliance on wholly-CGI set-pieces, Kong: Skull Island will naturally skew towards younger, male audiences. And in the battleground of Kong's birthplace, Skull Island, it's the actors who come away bruised. While Brie Larson's photojournalist is a warm presence which no amount of cod-dialogue can cool, and John C. Reilly provides a reliable comedy port in this storm as a castaway, Kong doesn't show much career mercy to either Samuel L. Jackson or Tom Hiddleston playing dual leads.

Jackson is saddled with a Colonel Kurtz-like character, a battle-scarred Vietnam vet obsessed with vengeance, while Hiddleston as a Special Forces operative seems to have wandered from another film entirely, lost, perhaps, on his way to the casino. …

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