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RJ Bayley Reviews: Kong: Skull Island

by RJ Bayley

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Since he debuted in 1933 King Kong, has been adapted and repurposed in many ways. He’s appeared in reverent remakes of the original and battled equally proportioned beasts in farcical faceoffs.

The most recent iteration to hit cinemas leans towards the latter camp, except is altogether more convincing when it comes to its monster mashing.

Set on Skull Island in the immediate aftermath of America’s failure in Vietnam, Skull Island sees the Monarch (the same monster hunting outfit from 2014’s Godzilla) and its military escort on the search for its first confirmed giant.

While the tone of Godzilla ‘14 was more serious (and more boring for it) this iteration goes for something that’s a cross between a pulpy 1970s comicbook and a theme park ride. There’s even a scene which deliberately evokes a well known moment from the classic Universal Studios Kongfrontation ride..

Watching Kong: Skull Island reminded me of This Is Spın̈al Tap’s most quoted moment. This is King Kong, but this one goes up to eleven. It’s that kind of straightforward, near unthinking excess which informs Skull Island.

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It feels like everything was designed and planned to be a big monster movie, and then the film decided to make it ‘one louder’.

It’s as if the film was involved in a game of chicken with itself. “Can we exaggerate this a bit further? Can we make Packard an even more stereotypical army colonel? Can we put even more teeth in the skull crawlers’ mouths? Can we make Kong even bigger? Now can we make him even bigger than that?”

And it’s a pleasure because of this willful stupidity. Sam Jackson is the Sam Jackson of old, not the new one that does acting, the old one that merrily munches scenery and just plays Sam Jackson. Brie Larson is very watchable doing her version of Lara Croft. The supporting cast are memorable. It’s only really Hiddleston that fails to make an impact.

The violence does suffer due to this cartoonish tone, feeling nowhere near as crunchy as that of 2005’s film. Nevertheless though, the helicopter raid and the nighttime showdown imagery impress.

All around good popcorn fun. Nothing more, nothing less. And to be fair, it doesn’t try to be anything else.

★★★

You can talk to @RJBayley about Brie Larson’s suitability to be Lara Croft on Twitter. Check out his creative projects like his upcoming vampire audiobook on his Facebook page and rjbayley.com

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