Kong: Skull Island is less a remake of the classic 1933 version, the cynical 1976 rehash, or Peter Jackson’s spirited 2005 take and more a reboot – the first of a whole new (and surely highly profitable) series. Or actually the second, as Godzilla has already been successfully Americanised, and Legendary Entertainment’s ‘MonsterVerse’ is in full swing. You don’t think the two of them will eventually go head-to-head and battle for the title of ‘King of the Monsters’, do you?
In 1973, on the very day that Nixon announces the end of the Vietnam War, we meet oddball government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) and seismologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) as they hit up Senator Willis (cameoing Richard Jenkins) for funding to map the uncharted ‘Skull Island’ in the Pacific. Only allowed to make the journey due to Cold War sentiment, they then recruit an improbable team: there’s British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston); a bunch of soldiers looking for something to do after ‘Nam and headed by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson); and a peacenik photojournalist named Mason Weaver (as played by Brie Larson, Oscar-winner for Room).
Not put off by the wall of FX storms that shroud the place, the whole bunch virtually run straight into Kong, who doesn’t take kindly to all the bombs and helicopter-swoopings (and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid) in a sequence that proves spectacular indeed. Split up, the remainders then trek across the island and meet a selection of mammoth creatures, not all of which are unfriendly (cue environmental messages), and Conrad’s gang also join up with Hank Marlow, a World War II survivor, funnily and rather touchingly portrayed by John C. Reilly.
Naturally Kong isn’t the bad guy here (he never really is), but there are significant changes under director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (and three credited screenwriters). First, Kong doesn’t have the burning romantic crush on the female lead. Second, the characters don’t wind up with big ape in New York in the latter half. Third, it transpires that the titular figure has a major grudge against vicious thingamajigs dubbed ‘Skullcrawlers’, which turn out to be dinosaur-dragon-Alien hybrids with oodles of teeth and a tendency to vomit out important plot points.
And please note: as is always the case in such franchises, there is a crucial sequence right at the very end of the final credits, which tantalisingly promises what’s to come next in the ‘MonsterVerse’ and tends to play to empty cinemas (as these things all too often do). Therefore, and please, you MUST patiently wait for it, and not go online and have it monstrously spoiled for you.
Rated M. Kong: Skull Island is in cinemas now.