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Film review – Kong: Skull Island turns King Kong into full-blown monster movie spectacle

Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ film is set on a South Pacific island during the Vietnam war, where a platoon of soldiers seeks to kill Kong, and finds a modern-day Robinson Crusoe along the way

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 3:02pm

3.5/5 stars

Twelve years after Peter Jackson remade King Kong , the great ape is back – in a film that’s not another retelling of the classic 1933 film by Merian C. Cooper. Kong: Skull Island takes us back to the creature’s habitat in the South Pacific, only now we’re in the early 1970s at the tail end of the Vietnam war.

Led by John Goodman’s shadowy scientist, a military-manned mission is put in place to explore the uncharted Skull Island. Along for the ride are expert tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and, leading a platoon of men, battle-hardened Lt. Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson).

No sooner does this team penetrate the permanent storm clouds circling the island than Kong appears, swatting helicopters out the sky. It’s a brilliantly executed sequence, the first of several, with the 30-metre-tall Kong’s CG realisation impressive.

Kong: Skull Island director, lead actors talk about myth and enduring appeal of the giant ape

Drawing from films like The Land That Time Forgot (1974), with Kong not the only oversized beast on the island, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts strikes a fine balance between action, drama and humour. The latter comes courtesy of a bedraggled, batty John C. Reilly as Marlow, an American pilot from the second world war left stranded on the island like a latter-day Robinson Crusoe.

Ultimately, the film is a high noon showdown as Packard becomes determined to slaughter the creature who’s killed so many of his men. It’s hard to tell who is scarier: Kong or a glaring Jackson. With a gentle reminder of humanity’s wilful destruction of nature, Kong: Skull Island is a beast of a blockbuster.

Kong: Skull Island tour package takes in Vietnam film locations

Kong: Skull Island opens on March 9

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