The king of those damned dirty apes is back, and he packs a beautiful punch.
Kong: Skull Island, the second entry into Warner Bros expanding MonsterVerse, is a visual extravaganza of monstrous proportion. However the awkward shifts in tone offset an otherwise impressive monster movie.
Following the discovery of of an uncharted island via satellite in 1973 a government outfit led by Bill Randa (John Goodman) is sent on a survey job to ascertain what can be found there. To ensure the trip goes smoothly they are assigned Lieutenant Colonel Packard’s (Samuel L. Jackson) military helicopter squadron as an escort, with hired help from former SAS Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddlestone) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). However when the group get to the picturesque island and start dropping seismic charges they are attacked by a giant ape leaving them stranded. Those who survived the initial crash are left to find their way to the extract point on the other side of the island, but must survive its deadly unknown wildlife including the thing that left them there.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts, director of the well received indie Kings of Summer helms this latest film to feature one of the most iconic titans of cinema and he does a remarkable job of it. We’re thankfully spared the oft regurgitated story of the original film in favour of something new to fit into Warner Bros vision of a shared universe full of movie monsters. Though what we get in return isn’t fully nuanced, it is lavishly adorned with scintillating imagery and action packed monster action, which if we’re being honest is the only reason we’re watching, isn’t it? With the help of cinematographer Larry Fong, who worked on such visual feasts as 300, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen, Vogt-Roberts has crafted a film oozing with cinematic flare. Sure there are some jarring transitions between slowmo and action, but they’re balanced out by beautifully framed shots that really make images come to life (not to mention make the 3D look great if you’re in IMAX). Whether we’re watching a night time showdown between Kong and Samuel. L Jackson’s monomaniacal Packard (a character 50 shades of Captain Ahab who chews through the islands scenery) or helicopters punching a hole through a storm cloud, every frame is pretty to look at.
Unfortunately films can’t get by on splendid cinematography alone, and this is where Kong: Skull Island starts to crack. The film is saddled with a few too many characters, and some tardy expository dialogue. Though at its best when basking in the drama and seriousness of the unfolding events, the moments of levity sprinkled in throughout just feel out of place. This is especially not helped by the split narrative when on the island. After initially succumbing to Kong’s first attack on the helicopters the party is split into two. One follows Packard and his men, the other by Conrad, Weaver, and a couple of geologists. When following the former it’s engaging serious stuff, but when we jump to the other group we’re treated to a never ending serenade of 70s music and lighter moments. Though fine individually, it doesn’t gel well overall.
Despite being set in the same universe, it’s a world apart from Gareth Evans Godzilla by being more colourful and action packed as it trades tension for entertainment. That being said Kong: Skull Island has all the trademarks of a summer blockbuster. It’s big, beautiful, and a monster sized slice of cinematic fun. Check your brain at the door and gorge yourself on the eye candy.