A surfeit of cool ideas propels this grand adventure forward, even if they don’t ever all quite gel into something with a larger point. But movies about giant monsters don’t live or die on “larger points” and Kong: Skull Island remains a consistently entertaining hoot throughout.
The first cool idea is the Vietnam-era setting. A war defined by how it was portrayed on screen, the film gains a unique point of difference by locating all the monster mayhem amidst the familiar aesthetics and character types found in films like Apocalypse Now and Platoon.
There’s no shortage of eye-popping set-pieces, but Kong’s gargantuan size makes some of the staging a little ineffective in the sense that it comes across a little awkward whenever humans and the giant ape are on screen at the same time. On the whole though, the action is pretty spectacular, and distinct enough from that seen in Peter Jackson’s underrated 2005 King Kong movie.
The stellar cast – especially John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson – make a meal out of the film. Tom Hiddleston, playing the ostensible hero, is a little ineffectual though. It’s not hard to picture the movie without his character.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) proves himself an inspired choice to direct the film, only his second, and presents the majority of his monster mash with a fanboy-ish glee that elevates the proceedings. The Oldboy reference made me clap out loud.
Unlike a lot of franchise-ready genre films, Kong: Skull Island is more concerned with telling its own story than setting up future installments. There are gestures in the general direction of the already-announced Godzilla vs. Kong, but they never seem too craven or get in the way.
Any genre epic where the financial motivation is not blindingly apparent is something to be celebrated. All hail Kong: Skull Island.