Kong: Skull Island
Dir: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
The original King Kong is a glorious film but while there are aspects of each subsequent Kong film I have liked, no one has ever really matched the first film's iconic magnificence. Son of Kong is hilarious, as are the other Kongs up until Peter Jackson's 2005 remake which was way too serious and far too CGI heavy. Kong: Skull Island is obviously CGI but only when it has to be, and thankfully the locations are real this time. Re-writing Kong's origins was also the best and altogether most obvious choice of path as story was concerned, and while I was initially excited about hearing that Kong would be making another big screen outing, I wasn't expecting much, but was hoping it would at least be a little bit silly and fun with it. I was even more anxious when I found out that the story was based on an idea from John Gatins and co-wrote by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly. Not because they are bad writers, far from it, it's just that their collective work (Real Steel, Jurassic World, Nightcrawler and also 2014's Godzilla), made me wonder if these were the best people for the job. When Jordan Vogt-Roberts was hired as director I wondered if the producers were high, I love his work and adored The Kings of Summer but how do you go from sweet little indie to mega franchise monster film. Well, I should know by now that actually, this is beginning to be the recipe for success. Not only can you take Kong: Skull Island relatively seriously as an idea, but it is also loads of fun in the big adventure/action blockbuster tradition and has a suitably witty script that doesn't conflict with the dark and scary bits. Kong: Skull Island is what I had hoped for and much more. The set up and character development is great, especially considering how many core characters there are. There are deadly serious characters and there are jovial characters, they never conflict with one another or feel out of place in the same film, which is a sign of impeccable writing, as well as good performance. In many respects, the tone feels rather inspired by what Marvel Entertainment are doing with their roster of superheroes, the balance of action, ideas and humour are key to its success. Don't fear though, there are still some pretty scary moments to be had, some being pretty dark indeed. When you break down the structure of the film it really is a formulaic monster film but it never feels like it and nothing is predictable. It's actually more like a war film and is clearly heavily influenced by Apocalypse Now, with a little bit of Moby Dick thrown in for good measure. Setting the film before technology ruined any sense of espionage, vulnerability or isolation was also a good move. The idea that the monster should be hidden for the majority of the film and should have a delayed revel (think Jaws) is thrown out of the window and the first time we see Kong must be every fan's dream. That 5 minute scene is better than the whole of Peter Jackson's entire 187 minute film in my opinion. The cast is fantastic (and again, almost entirely 'inspired' by Marvel). It includes Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, motion-capture dude Terry Notary and John C. Reilly. So that's Loki, Nick Fury, Walter Sobchak, Captain Marvel, Doctor Doom, Jesus, Dr. Dre, Easy-E, The Hulk and Wreck-It Ralph vs. King Kong. What could be better than that? Fans and those with good memories will have heard and recognized the mention of the Monarch organisation, and those that stayed until the end credits were over (about 2% of the cinema in the showing I went to) will have seen and heard the mention of the big green lizard, so this film is connected to 2014's Godzilla and it seems the two will meet again soon. I have a huge soft spot for these big monsters but to take them seriously would be a mistake, a mistake it doesn't look as if those involved with 'MonsterVerse' are going to make, which is music to my ears. Kong was brilliant, the other 'monsters' (good and bad) were also a great touch and it has been a very long time since I have enjoyed a big popcorn blockbuster as much as I did this. Think all the fun of the 70's King Kongs but with great special effects and a 1993 Jurassic Park vibe. Brilliant, and at last!