Friday, 31 March 2017

Review: Kong: Skull Island

Year: 2017
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Screenplay: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly.

Synopsis is here:

“Everything here is something” - Marge Simpson Ep15 – Season 13 - Blame it on Lisa

King Kong has been refurbed three times before Kong: Skull Island. That’s not counting his 60’s Japanese stints. Before this iteration, audiences were given at least a 20+ year period before the great ape roared back into screens once more. The fact that Kong: Skull Island has taken 12 years to reach audiences only reminds us of just how rapid the acceleration of reimagining/rebooting/rehashing cinematic brands has become. Yes, it is still over a decade but the gap is remarkably smaller, particularly when we consider studios churning films of anything that may rouse even a passing notion of nostalgia. While I don’t wish to turn this review into a rant about “original” stories, it is important to note that the high volume of going back to the well should hopefully mean bringing a fresher angle to the material. Kong: Skull Island decides that while harking on past success is the only thing. People like giant apes. You get giant apes.

Kong: Skull Island is a far more kinetic beast than Peter Jackson’s more romanticised project. This is straight up B-Movie thrills. No dilly dallying. We get to see Kong from the get go. There’s no mystery here. Spectacle is key. This is a Kong for cinematic universe goers. We know what to expect, so it just needs to be confirmed. Does Kong go rampant? Check. Is nearly everything these poor humans touch actually a beasty designed to kill them? Check. Are the human characters not worth a dime because giant apes? Double check. Skull Island merrily fills the frame with known character actors and unceremoniously stomps them out the picture, without a care in the world. We’re here to see Kong smash and indeed he does.

There is a distinct feeling of hollowness about the whole thing. We expect a film about a gigantic ape to have a bobbins plot, but there isn’t much to really grasp on. Oddball crew find a strange island. There’s a massive monkey on it. The film hangs the Vietnam war and Nixon over itself as window dressing, but all the Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now references seem to be shallow lip service to an audience that wouldn’t be interested in Samuel L Jackson going mental over a huge ape. The films disposable cast is well picked and they’re a little more fun to watch than the dour performances that appear in the recent Godzilla (2014) remake. However, as the film isn’t really interested in their plight, it’s still hard to be really invested in anything that happens. The action is tight and well-constructed and there a general knock around fun that comes from some of the set pieces, but it is all empty calories. While it’s vaguely amusing to see people not even able to sit down on anything without said seat trying to eat them, nothing really lingers in the mind, nor feels worth watching again. Something I do get from previous incarnations.

A brief but obvious spoiler hints at a larger universe filled with ancient creatures, but I find myself asking why. The answer is as clear as day, but the films are quite weak. At least Kong: Skull Island acknowledges that it's a B-movie. It seems pointless to tie all these films up this time around, but now that the Marvel cinematic universe dictate the market trend, we now have to realise that everything here is something.