Film Review: KONG: SKULL ISLAND (USA 2017) ***

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kong_skull_island.jpgDirector: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writers: Dan Gilroy (screenplay), Max Borenstein (screenplay)
Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson

Review by Gilbert Seah

 There have been already too many films on King Kong. The first and most memorable one for me was the 1962 campy Japanese version entitled KONG KONG VS. GODZILLA where audiences were treated to the climatic fight between the two monsters executed by actors in monster suits. The KING KONG films have been improved in terms of special effects. Even Peter Jackson had a go at it in the horrid 2005 version with an overlong attack by Kong on NYC. This latest edition is a reboot with two writers Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein and a new director Vogt-Roberts whose only other film is an indie called THE KINGS OF SUMMER. But this new version takes a bit from each of the previous King Kong films, in fact the best from them, resulting in a satisfactory adventure film filled with special effects, action and much more humour.

The film begins very oddly in the year 1944 when a Japanese and American pilot are both shot down on Skull Island in the South Pacific (hints of HELL IN THE PACIFIC), They fight each other, only to be interrupted by the appearance of the giant Kong. Flash forward to 1973

when former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) is hired by government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) to guide an expedition to map out an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean known as “Skull Island”. Randa also recruits the Sky Devils helicopter squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to escort them to the island, and the group is later joined by pacifist photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who believes the scientific expedition to be a cover for an illegal military operation and plans to expose it. There, they find Kong as well as the American pilot, Marlow (John C. Reilly) now older, having lived there for 28 years.

The island is also the home of other giant creatures, the most fearsome being the Skullcrawlers, the biggest one of which battles Kong at the film’s climax, similar to the fight between King Kong and Godzilla. The other action segments involve the characters battling other monsters including a spider, ants and flying pterodactyl-like birds. The characters are trying to get to the north of the island in order to be rescued.

The Conrad and Mason characters form the boring romantic couple of the story. Fortunately, Vogt-Roberts treats their romance as slight. The more interesting characters are Packard portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, obsessed by his aim to kill Kong. There has hardly been a single film in which Jackson has not uttered the words mother f***er. So wait for this special scene. Reilly also steals the show as the comical Marlow who saves Kong.

The new take on the King Kong story actually works. At least the audience is spared from Kong being brought back to American to climb the Empire State building. But Kong still has the ‘hots’ for Brie Larson.

But most important is to stay till after the end credits. In the comical post-credits scene that primes the audience for a sequel, Conrad and Weaver are detained by Monarch and informed that Kong is not the only monster to roam the world. They are then shown archive footage of cave paintings depicting Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP0-9FBs2Rs

_________

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