Is Kong still King?

Short answer: yes.

Just as the Vietnam war comes to an end an expedition is sent to the mysterious Skull Island, one of the last uncharted places in the world. Led by Tom Hiddleston’s ex-SAS tracker, John Goodman’s biologist and Samuel L Jackson’s military man, they encounter John C Reilly’s stranded WWII airman and Kong, defender of his own little kingdom.

There is plenty to like in this film: enough moments of genuine tension and surprise attacks to keep the attention; several lighter moments, mostly courtesy of Reilly; and some great cinematography. Kong himself is very well realised and performed by Terry Notary, although he is not quite as nuanced as the Peter Jackson version, but then this is a very different take on the “character”. While there are a couple of tender scenes between Kong and Brie Larson’s photojournalist, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the previous incarnation and Naomi Watts.

The 1973 post-Vietnam setting creates opportunities for a cracking 70s soundtrack and more than a few reminders of Apocalypse Now. The shot of Kong and a fleet of helicopters silhouetted against a backdrop of a red sky is one of the more memorable images of the film. There is also a reference to Jurassic Park to spot, and the nature of one particular beastie reminded me of Aliens, as did one of the soldiers who seemed to me to be made from the same mould as the late Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson.

If anything lets the film down, it’s some of the CGI, which in places looks like it’s not going to age terribly well. I also had a hard time buying Hiddleston as a tough ex-SAS man. Once you get past his first scene he comes across more like a catalogue model striking a series of poses. He’s a fine actor, I’m just not sure he was right for this part.

All in all, I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5. Good, but not great.

PS Stick around for a post-credits scene….


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