With awards season over, here’s a reminder of what's really the king of the multiplex: the blockbuster. Rammed with special effects, A-list stars and one-liners - plus a monster budget, this one cost around $200 million, that's 130 times more than Moonlight - this latest take on the Kong legend is the most wildly enjoyable so far.
Set in 1973, as everyone is bailing out of Vietnam, a rag-tag bunch of soldiers and scientists are planning on staying behind to investigate a mysterious jungle island. The exploration team includes a collection of actors working squarely in their comfort zones. John Goodman is the gruff government agent who knows more than he's letting on. Samuel L. Jackson is an unhinged army colonel in charge of a troop of trigger-happy squaddies. And Brie Larson is an anti-war photographer who's along for the ride. It's really only Tom Hiddleston who seems out of place as a deadly ex-SAS tracker. There's something very English and crisply ironed about him that's hard to shake off. Perfect for The Night Manager - who better to pop up and check the thermostat or turn down your bed? But in a monster movie, he seems lost before they've even set off.
And Kong: Skull Island is packed with monsters. As the team cross the island to reach their rescue point they bump into a super sized menagerie of beasts – crabby spiders, skeleton lizards, enormous water buffalos. It turns out that Kong himself is the least vicious thing living there. As it should be. Since his origins in 1933, the giant ape has always been the noble protector of his domain from mankind's stupidity and greed. A card well played here, with the background of the U.S.'s failed adventures in Vietnam. Larson does a fine job in drumming home the eco/peace message, avoiding the 'scream queen' cliches of the past and sharing a few tender moments with Kong. Well, as much as any woman can with a 200-foot ape.
The director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has created a smart and surprisingly good-looking film that at times is both bonkers and beautiful, for example a scene with Hiddleston in a gas mask slicing up a flock of blue-blooded pterodactyls with a samurai sword, or a squadron of helicopters flying into a setting sun that fills the screen. It’s a nod to Apocalypse Now that along with the 70s soundtrack, including Jefferson Airplane, Bowie and Black Sabbath, shows a filmmaker that loves film.
There's no doubt this is going to be a big hairy hit at the box-office, greenlighting Legendary Pictures plans to release a series of monster movies. Expect to see an appearance from Mothra (a skyscraper sized moth), Rodan (a flying dinosaur) and Godzilla. Surely Kong will return to grapple with him at some stage. Yes! La La Land - we've so moved on.
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