Tuesday 18 July 2017

Kong: Skull Island ★★★★☆

Kong: Skull Island is the second film in the expanding genre of Expanded Universes after the highly acclaimed 2014 Godzilla movie. Kong : Skull Island stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson and John C Reilly, but really it could have just been a handful of putties from the original Power Rangers episodes for all the good it does the film. This reboot answers the question of whether or not an entire cast built from the MCU backlog could work if handed a script that is absolute dog shit. The answer is a resounding “kinda”.

The plot is basically what you think, a collection of people want to get to an undiscovered island, they want to be rich and they want to be first to prove the existence of giant monsters. John C Reilly acts as a tour guide to the island after landing there unexpectedly during world war two and going slightly mental while he was at it. The soldiers seem to actually have a tight bond that I liked, but so many of them were very unmemorable, and the film treats them that way as a collection of bad decisions lead to something horrifying, in some case spidery, deaths. 

Like it’s current partner Godzilla, the film has a real problem making any of the characters matter, while at the same time handling the Kaiju (see: giant fucking monster) almost perfectly. We already love all these people, and they still don’t matter to us one bit whereas Kong feels like a real animal interacting with the scenery and not just a Roger Rabbit style CGI character, and in many ways  ‘it’ is the best actor in the movie. 

His gargantuan size in relation to the cast (and in relation to the previous iterations of Kong) would normally make a film hard to scale, but he moves around as if he is comfortable with his size instead of dragging his limbs really slowly in a way that we associate with elephants stealthily moving through treacle. The giant monkey in question has learned to fight, and he fights with knowledge and skill thus making his semi understanding of the human beings make sense in the world. Kong obviously thinks, he obviously plans and he obviously watches UFC.

If you think you have nothing to gain from watching a giant monkey movie, you might come out of this surprised, though still fundamentally correct. I never particularly enjoyed King Kong, Godzilla et al, but somehow have ended up watching quite a lot of them. When the monsters fight in this, which is what it is really about after all, it really is incredibly thrilling, it doesn’t cause the disconnect that I sometimes feel, like watching episodes of Tom and Jerry while a hangover is kicking in before I’ve even been to bed. However I don’t want you to think that Tom and Jerry isn’t amazing it is, just not while I stew in my pants, wine and regret. Or maybe that’s when it’s best, I can’t tell I’m hungover and in my 30s, I am decaying at a remarkable rate.

John C Reilly lifts the film just as it starts to wilt and causes another schizophrenic feeling for me, as he is suitably entertaining, and the cast seem to be very accepting of him, but it kind’ve feels like he thinks he’s in a Will Ferrell movie about war whereas the rest of the cast think they might be in Apocalypse Now.  Samuel L Jackson is typically intense in a fun way that harks back to his best Samuel Angry Jackson roles, and acts as a believable reason for stupid decisions and conflict. 

Whereas in the original 1933 film, the giant monster was called upon with a gong and an extra long king kong sing-along, this version of Kong is much more proactive as ‘protector of the realm’, like he sees himself as a superhero with great power and responsibility. The rest of the cast, and plot are dripping out’ve my short term memory into an empty Pringles can on the ground as they were not particularly interesting. There’s nothing more painful to watch than a futile self sacrifice and this film has one of my favourites and quickest.

I know a lot of people are wary and skeptical of shared universes but I think we are feeding a machine that is great at the moment, and eventually it’ll stop turning out pure uncut cocaine for the cinema goers, and inevitably start cutting it with talcum powder and old dusty sand (I’m looking at you Universal), but at the moment we should enjoy the ride, this film isn’t perfect, in fact I don’t remember any of it from when I saw it in the cinema but I have discovered that I remember it fondly and it wasn’t the least pleasant thing I discovered that day. (I found out a friend of mine goes to to the cinema, and for snacks, exclusively eats nacho cheese, out’ve a cup with a pen. It’s not good, it’s also not bad, but the best thing that it isn’t, is boring, the pacing of giant monkey violence is perfect and if they learn where the film falls short, it could make the Kong vs Godzilla movie an absolute fucking cunt hoof!


David Roberts

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