3.5 stars
Creature-features hold a special place in the hearts and minds of many and none more so than the 100 foot chimp who went ape and plunged to his death in 1933.
Nothing since has lived up to the original King Kong: not when he fought Godzilla in 1962, escaped in 1967, certainly not the deplorable remake in 1976 nor when he lived again in 1986. Peter Jackson came close with Naomi Watts as Fay Wray in 2005, but the finest reimagining is likely to be this years’ ‘origins’ tale, Kong: Skull Island.

We don’t visit New York, in fact we don’t leave Kong’s home of Skull Island and since we’re in 1976 it’s a little hard to say quite how this fits into the greater creature-verse other than to say it doesn’t. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has hit the reset button, and don’t it with some style, albeit unapologetic B-movie style. And because it is 1976, he gets to mash up Kong with the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Jurassic Park and Apocalypse Now, then layer events with a hippie, ‘the world will fight back’ sensibility. No problems there.

Back at the start, John Goodman knows monsters but getting anyone to believe him has been difficult. When a spy satellite spots a previously unknown island, he finally gets his chance to correct the record, commanding a crew of scientists led by a team of soldiers in turn led by Samuel L. Jackson. Their brief is to map Skull Island before the Soviets do. What they discover is that everything is bigger – from the insects to the water buffalo to a giant squid to raptor-like flying things to underground killer lizards and all the way up to Kong himself, protector and King of the island. He’s not too happy about intruders and their careless, environmentally destructive ways.

So far, so creature-feature. And in truth, there’s not a lot to distinguish this from a thousand other similar movies other than this one is actually rather good. The FX department don’t miss a beat with a distressingly real Kong whom you can almost smell. His human co-stars aren’t to be upstaged with Tom Hiddleston as a ring-in mercenary and Brie Larson as a photo-journalist (remember them?) giving the film ballast, while John C. Reilly brings the right note of kooky levity – he was stranded on Skull Island back in the 40’s – and fleshes out the inevitable ‘scream and run’ narrative as one-by-one, cast members around him loose their heads.

There’s a pleasingly green subtext in the margins, but mostly this is an exercise in shock-and-awe that does both in terms of scale and tech. With enough wit in the script to keep things breezing along and better than average casting, Kong: Skull Island is the best Kong movie since 1933. It even makes good on the disappointment that was Jurassic World, which is a nice bonus.


Previewed at Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 6 March 2017

Tom Hiddleston
Samuel L. Jackson
John Goodman
Brie Larson

Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Dan Gilroy
Max Borenstein



120 minutes

March 9, 2017
Kong: Skull Island (2017) on IMDb
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