Review: Kong Skull Island is Apocalypse Now meets Jurassic Park

Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad, Brie Larson as Mason Weaver in Kong: Skull Island. Picture: Warner B

Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad, Brie Larson as Mason Weaver in Kong: Skull Island. Picture: Warner Brothers - Credit: PA

The first part of the new King Kong film, starring Tom Hiddleston, is fun and humorous but it loses its way on the mysterious island.

Kong: Skull Island (12A)


Another King Kong movie may not seem like an enticing prospect but it is, I think, only right and proper that the movies revisit Kong every now and then because he is, after Chaplin's Little Tramp, the first enduring, globally recognised fictional character generated by the movies.

We get new Sherlocks, Draculas and Frankensteins almost every other year – there's even another bloody Mummy movie on its way – so the cinema should do right by Kong, Charles Foster Kong, one of its defining icons.

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Previous retellings have set the bar fairly low, although this new one, a 1970s-set action adventure directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, starts like it has something to live up to.

After two Second World War fighter pilots – one American, one Japanese – crash land on a mysterious Pacific island and come face to face with Kong, the credit sequence races us through the key events of the post war era, we presume up to the present day, until it stops in 1973, with Nixon, Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War.

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John Goodman gets out of a cab on Capitol Hill, announces that Washington will never be in this big of a mess ever again before cornering a senator to get him to divert some returning Nam grunts for a mission to survey a mysterious island. And that's when you realise that the film is going to follow through on the promise of its poster. It's Apocalypse Now remade as a Jurassic Park film, with Kong as Kurtz. Which is, of course, symptomatic of the crass materialism of 21st century Hollywood.

But, it is also, if we're honest, a little bit genius too. The first third promises a blast of irreverent fun with some nice humour and well drawn supporting characters.

But like the expedition it loses its way on the island.

Samuel L Jackson, as the gung ho military commander, is a little too Snakes On A Plane silly. Tom Hiddleston, cast as a conventional leading man, just strikes a series of unconvincing heroic poses and looks a little lost.

The action sequences and monster special effects lack zip and offer little that we haven't seen before.

The film is due at some future point to tie in with the recent Godzilla remake and, comparing the two, this is a lot more coherent and fun, but that is a much greater spectacle.

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