There have been 8 movies in the King Kong genre (yes, an ape that big deserves his own genre). Adding a 9th one to the franchise is Kong: Skull Island, making his monkey return in the the midst of the Vietnam War and the rise of the porno mo’.
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the film takes us out of New York City and back to the beginning, set in 1973 around the time of the Vietnam war. Instead of sending US soldiers home, they are lead to a remote island shrouded in mystery, that scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman) identifies as the origin of new species. The team, led by three scared scientists, a self-declared “anti-war” photographer (Brie Larson) and an over paid expert tracker and former soldier (Tom Hiddleston) head to Skull Island on a mapping mission, not realising that the storms they have to fly through to get to the island are the easiest part of the mission ahead. Soon after arriving on the picture-perfect island, the team come face to face with a very large and very angry ape, as well as a menagerie of other giant creatures that have made the paradise their home.
Samuel Jackson plays Samuel Jackson, or Packard as they keep calling him throughout the film, and is comfortable in his familiar solid performance of standing around as things blow up around him and dropping such zingers as “bitch, please!”. The group splits up after Kong goes ape, leaving them only to their walkie talkies and armoury to make their way to the other end of the island. When one group meets the local colony and a soldier that has been stranded since 1944 (John C .Reilly – fun fact: originally Keaton was cast for this role), it soon becomes a new war: pro-ape vs con-ape. Reilly provides the comic relief, perhaps having nothing to do in 29 years apart stranded on Skull Island from develop a sense of humour and learn to worship a great ape.
The special effects and cinematography are definitely impressive, right down to the details of the hairs up Kong’s nose. The soundtrack is also excellent, with time-appropriate songs chosen for the Vietnam war meets Jurassic park action flick. Unfortunatlely, a few of the themes don’t quite resonate and the film touches on the beginnings of a few stories that don’t really deepen, but overall there is enough action, scenery and emotion for viewers to get a kick out of the 2 hours of apey goodness. There’s not a whole lot of character development, sometimes you’re even left wondering “wait, who is that?”, but in a movie that we only really want to see a monkey fight a giant fish lizard, I don’t think that will thwart the viewers’ opinion.
Look out for the 10th film in the King Kong franchise, due to be released in 2020, where we will once again get to see Kong take on an even bigger lizard: our old favourite Godzilla.