We’re officially over awards season and now entering into blockbuster season as the dust settles on that Oscars disaster and we prepare ourselves for the big guns to throw at us their best mega-money offerings from worlds that are far removed from the real world that we live in. Escapism cinema is often the order of the day when it comes to the expected box office titans of a calendar year and none come mightier than King Kong, returning to the screen in Kong: Skull Island.
The year is 1973 and with the Vietnam War officially ceased, it is a time for war-torn soldiers to return home to their families and look to forget the napalm-induced horrors that they have encountered while battling for their country. Not for Samuel L. Jackson’s Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard and his squadron (including Toby Kebbell, Thomas Mann and Shea Wigham) as they are tasked with one more mission before removing themselves from bullets, helicopters and ultimate danger.
They are tasked with transporting an investigative crew to an unknown island where something so much more dangerous is lurking within the lush forestry and grand rivers. Led by Bill Randa (John Goodman) and geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), and joined by British tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), the crew attempt to uncover just why no-one has returned from the devastating Skull Island.
In this day and age it takes something truly spectacular to ultimately captivate audiences on a visual level. In an era where CGI-heavy movies can often feel like they are over-saturating cinema, it’s wonderfully refreshing to see a film like Kong: Skull Island still pushing the boundaries to create a visual experience like few others. Such a behemoth of cinema spanning decades deserves his own grand return and this is the movie to provide just that. From the very first early moment in which we set eyes on the great King, we’re instantly transported to a world of wonderment and excitement. A stark contrast to Legendary’s other fighting monster Godzilla, here director Jordan Vogt-Roberts throws Kong front and centre as quickly as possible, reminding us that he isn’t messing around, much like his leading beast.
And Kong isn’t the only one to steal the limelight. A movie of this calibre possesses a supreme ensemble cast and each get their core moments to shine. John Goodman channels some of his unhinged 10 Cloverfield Lane characteristics and Samuel L. Jackson has a riot as the movie’s core antagonist intent on wreaking fiery havoc on Kong and the other over-sized natives of the island. Hiddleston and Larson strike with a scintillating chemistry that sets them apart as our key heroes and even the likes of Thomas Mann and Corey Hawkins lend that extra depth to a group we get accustomed to in no time at all.
While Skull Island certainly isn’t a lesson in groundbreaking acting or award-winning dialogue, it does exactly what it has promised – provide enthralling and exciting action. Every scene featuring the big ape is majestic and set pieces involving other creatures hammer home the message that this is a monster movie to the core. From helicopters being swatted out of the sky to aptly named Skullcrawlers slithering their way to make you jolt in your seat, the movie looks spectacular in its presentation and cinematographer Larry Fong deserves the utmost of praise. Iconic shots of sunsets and fire-laden landscapes provide their own Vietnam movie nods but ultimately this is stylised action cinema at its most gorgeous.
Perhaps the only slightly jarring part of the film that may irk some viewers is an incessant use of 70s music to drive the era in the opening half of the film, but this is soon long forgotten in favour of grand monster mayhem. That and John C. Reilly’s beard…
Kong: Skull Island is a breakneck action blockbuster that re-introduces King Kong as the cinema monster to dominate all. It’s loud, bombastic, explosive fun that hits all the right notes and proves that Legendary are on their A-game when it comes to their monster universe. Kong is still the King. Period.
Kong: Skull Island is released in UK Cinemas on 10th March.