(Dir: Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2017)
Everyone expects to see King Kong rampaging through New York City, climbing the Empire State Building, and just generally causing the destruction one would anticipate from a giant ape roaming free in a major metropolitan area. Kong: Skull Island doesn't care about that, which is absolutely to its credit. The film is instead focused on the discovery of Kong on the mythical Skull Island, and what goes down there when a team of investigators and military personnel find themselves trying to survive until the escape plan kicks in. Wait... that makes it all sound so serious when really it is just an excuse for giant monsters to eat people!
Said monsters are superbly realised. Kong himself is suitably imposing, and although he lacks some of the emotional weight that the apes of the recent Planet of the Apes films possess, there's just about enough for this story. The skullcrushers, which are the more pressing threat, are menacing, and everything else we see on screen inspires feelings of both awe and fear. These visuals are enhanced by the beautiful, tropical locale, which offers a fantastic background. It's more enjoyable seeing this character in a 'natural' setting rather than him being thrust into somewhere man-made. The seventies era is another win for the film, as the limited technology of the time makes it believable that the island went undiscovered for so long, and provides the soldiers with more limited firepower and communications options, ensuring there is a greater level of threat. And of course it allows for a satisfying soundtrack of seventies rock.
An impressively good cast have been assembled, with Tom Hiddlestone and Brie Larson proving most enjoyable, along with some of the more junior soldiers. And of course John C. Reilly playing a pilot lost to time, whose isolated zaniness is pitched just right. Arguably Samuel L. Jackson's lieutenant colonel, a man who only knows war and needs it to feel at home, is the weak link, becoming the defacto bad guy thanks to his somewhat clichéd myopia. The strong cast certainly help Kong: Skull Island, which is ultimately a fun watch, however it is lacking something - one of those slightly intangible, difficult to put your finger on things. Thus it never transcends being just a bit of visually impressive fun. But does it need to be more? Probably not as it is good at what it does. Do we want to see more of this? Yes please.