In a week where two ape films are competing to be King, (albeit one on home entertainment and one in the multiplexes), this particular primate falls short. Jordan Voght-Roberts (The Kings of Summer)’s retooling of the King Kong franchise (not quite a reboot, but not quite a sequel either) is certainly an awe-inspiring visual spectacle though.
Taking place just after the end of the Vietnam War, U.S. government agent Bill Randa (the ever reliable John Goodman) assembles a rag-tag group of soldiers (played by, amongst others, Samuel L. Jackson, Thomas Mann and Toby Kebbell), a war photographer (Academy Award winner Brie Larson), and a tracker (Tom Hiddleston) to travel to the titular Skull Island to research the geology of the territory (but really to document the big, bad ape).
The film’s most memorable sequence occurs when the aggregation descends upon the Pacific Island, its helicopters in perfect formation as they blare music to accompany the gunfire fireworks they unleash upon the awakened Kong. Fascinating that both ape films (War for the Planet of the Apes being the other title) are so eager to pay tribute to Apocalypse Now and interesting too that in both the central simian is the real star and emotional draw. While this film boasts an impressive all-star cast (Larson and Kebbell, pulling double duty as he did motion capture work as well, proving to be the most mesmerizing of the performers) it’s Voght-Roberts’ capable directing, the visual effects, and the cinematography by Larry Fong that kept me glued to the screen.
Among the more noteworthy of the “creature features” is the beautiful travelogue ‘Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler‘, which beautifully captures the various vistas in the film (including Vietnam, Australia and Hawaii), ‘Through the Lens: Brie Larson’s Photography‘, which shows the actress’ impressive work capturing the events in the film (she really is a natural as a photographer), and the in-depth Director’s Commentary, where Voght-Roberts geeks out about the various film references and influences.
Overall Brief Take
Kong: Skull Island is a stunning visual achievement that signals the beginning of a compelling monsterverse.