Kong: Skull Island: "We Are Dealing With A Monster From A Bygone Era"

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writer:     Dan Gilroy
                Max Borenstein
                Derek Connolly
                John Gatins
Starring: Tom Hiddleston
                Samuel L. Jackson
                John Goodman
                Brie Larson
                Jing Tian
                John Ortiz
                Terry Notary
                John C. Reilly
Rating:    ***

Release Date: Out Now 

It would be an understatement to say that big monster movies have really struggled to find their footing in recent years, with films like Godzilla and Battleships coming under fire from critics. With that in mind, I approached Kong: Skull Island with a tentative view. Initially it was pitched as the start of a huge King Kong vs. Godzilla movie and then a Marvel Cinematic Universe set of movies based around Japanese movie monsters. Whether that comes to fruition, I do not know.

I am happy to say that with the right attitude going in, Kong: Skull Island is an exciting and heart-pumping thrill ride, that thrives on its old-fashioned style. Packed with new and interesting beasts (not every day you see giant daddy long legs going on a killing spree), and an enchanting and haunting setting that captures you and pulls you in.

The film, of course, opens with a massive action sequence, instantly setting the scene and letting you know what you're in for. A plane crashes out of the sky, there's a sword vs gun battle across this unfamiliar territory and then we are introduced to the giant ape; and this is the biggest Kong that has been on screen, measuring at a whopping 100m tall. It is an adrenaline packed opener that is filled with stunts, excitement and intensity.

We then are thrust into the 70's and this is where the rest of the film takes place. When John Goodman's character thinks he has found a completely undiscovered and uncharted island on a map, he makes it his mission to discover it. A team is formed, including renegade tracker Tom Hiddleston, photo journalist Brie Larson and tough military worker Samuel L. Jackson. They, along with the other army men and scientists head off on the biggest adventure they'll ever know.

The film has its strengths, mainly its brilliant and enthralling creatures and vast landscapes; but the characters are underwhelming and more often than not underused. Tom Hiddleston seems out of place and uncomfortable in the film,and amongst the action, his leading man status soon  evaporates and he disappears amongst the explosions and beasts. I also feel that Brie Larson never really gets her moment to shine, and has been added to the cast purely so they could have a female involved. It's a shame, because she shows the most promise in amongst all the alpha-males, and would've been a far better lead than Hiddleston tried to be.

The action comes at you from every angle, but of course at its heart this is a King Kong movie, and Kong himself is a beautifully created monster, and the moments he has on screen are intriguing and mesmerising. Whether he is eating a squid or fighting off enemies, Kong rules the roost and reminds the audience why they are there. I especially enjoyed the moment Kong and Larson got too share, it was tender moment that harked back to the original relationship between the ape and Faye Wray, way back in 1933.

Unlike previous King Kong films, this one is much more a war movie than it is a story of beauty and beast. Guns, soldiers and wars take place throughout, and amongst the action and excitement performances get lost and too many characters feel unnecessary. On the other hand, John C. Reilly stands out in his role, and manages to make his soldier, the one we meet at the very beginning, a multi-dimensional character who you empathise for entirely. He and Brie Larson really stole the show.

Director Jordan Vogt-Robert hasn't had much experience directing a big budget film like this, but his handling of the CGI and massive action sequences is superb. Unfortunately the character development and overall story let the film down. If you go in and just allow yourself to be taken into this sprawling and strange new world then this is a fantastic film, but if you are hoping for a decent story and superb performances, I would lower m expectations This film is made for the big screen, and that's where you need to see it.

Kong: Skull Island - Trailer